Biodiversity: EU increases the pressure

The UN Decade for the Restoration of Ecosystems has began, in October it is time for the UN Biodiversity Summit and now the European Parliament has adopted the Commission’s proposal for a strategy on biodiversity. The pressure to save biodiversity is increasing, linked both to climate goals and to creating green jobs and economic recovery. Sweco’s CSO Mattias Goldmann summarises the highlights.

Action for biodiversity is urgently needed. The global population of wild species has decreased by 60 percent over the past 40 years and one million species are at risk of extinction in the next decades – one in every eight species. The reasons are i.a. that more and more land is being used for intensive agriculture and that cities are taking up more and more space, that we are overfishing our seas, that coral reefs are dying and forests are being destroyed. And those who still believe that only other species are affected have not understood much – we are completely dependent on the ecosystem services that biodiversity gives us, and the existential threat to climate change can only be halted if the ability of forests and oceans to absorb carbon dioxide does not further decrease.

That is why we welcome the EU’s biodiversity strategy ‘Biodiversity Strategy for 2030: Bringing nature back into our lives’, which was adopted by Parliament with 515 votes in favor, 90 against and 86 abstentions. The critical voices include that forestry is considered too restricted, one too critical of GMOs and that national self-determination is too restricted. My highlights are.

  1. The money and the jobs. The European Commission states that at least € 20 billion a year should be released for biodiversity, in particular for restoring ecosystems, investing in the Natura 2000 network and in green and blue infrastructure in EU Member States. The Commission states that this is profitable; The benefits of the Natura 2000 network alone are valued at EUR 200-300 billion per year, with 500,000 new green jobs if the investment goes through. The investment in greener cities also creates many jobs, not least with innovative consulting firms such as Sweco.
  2. The goals. The strategy states that at least 30% of the EU’s land and water should be protected, building on existing Natura 2000 sites and nationally protected sites. 10% of agricultural land should consist of “high-diversity landscapes”, for example in the form of hedges or flowers, and a quarter of agricultural land should be organically farmed by 2030. In addition, the use of pesticides should be halved and several dangerous substances phased out.
  3. The plan. The strategy includes proposals for frameworks with binding targets for the restoration of damaged ecosystems, improved conservation status for at least 30% of the EU’s protected habitats, restoration of at least 25,000 km of rivers so that they become free-flowing; strengthened protection for pollinators, insects and birds in agricultural land and the planting of at least three billion trees with strict protection for the remaining primeval forests. In addition, a binding goal for urban biodiversity is to be developed, e.g. regarding green roofs and micro parks, with a “European Platform for Urban Greening”.
  4. The climate link. The strategy will contribute to our societies becoming more resilient to climate change, among other things by reducing the risk of forest fires and the effects when they do occur. At the same time, the strategy itself is part of the EU’s Green Deal and the goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050, with a 55% reduction in emissions in 1990-2030.
  5. The law. When the European Parliament considered the strategy, they noted with regret that the previous strategy had not been implemented, and therefore ask for an EU law on biodiversity, similar to the EU’s climate law and a ‘Paris agreement on biodiversity’. This can happen already this autumn; with the EU’s new strategy, expectations increase at the UN summit on biodiversity COP15 in Kunming in October.

Mattias Goldmann, Chief Sustainability Officer at Sweco

Mattias Goldmann