New biodiversity strategy in the EU: can we learn from past lessons for the benefit of people and nature?

Global biodiversity crisis is the main environmental problem today besides climate change. The extinction of species is 100-1000 times higher than the background rate, with nearly one in six terrestrial mammals and more than one in five amphibians threatened in Europe.

 This also has tangible negative effects on the society: biodiversity underpins ecosystem services, which contribute to human wellbeing through the provision of food, water, timber, stable climate, prevention from disasters, recreational opportunities and spiritual values among others.

In order to respond to the challenge and meet global and EU commitments, the European Commission released the new Biodiversity Strategy for the EU titled as ‘Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020’ as a follow up if the previous strategy, which expired in 2010. The new strategy includes six main targets, which are to be realized through several actions.

CEEweb for Biodiversity welcomes the new strategy and considers it as an important tool to implement main biodiversity commitments, such as the establishment and management of the Natura 2000 network protected under EU law and green infrastructure.

However, it lacks the political ambition of the EU to respond to the most important drivers of biodiversity loss and thus achieve significant improvements in the state of species and ecosystems.

While the effectiveness of the strategy will depend on the upcoming EU policy reforms on agriculture, fisheries and resource efficiency, as well as the new EU budget (2014-2021), the biodiversity strategy barely touches upon the main drivers behind biodiversity loss , and it fails to sufficiently inspire the necessary reforms and initiatives to deliver the desirable results.

CEEweb will call on the European Parliament and EU Member States to openly debate the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and support a reform of these policies which can address the problem.

“If we really want to protect biodiversity as our life insurance, we have to avoid the pitfalls of the previous strategy. We need to reduce our resource and land use and put ecosystem services at the heart of development planning,” says Klara Hajdu, CEEweb Secretary General.

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Cap our natural resource use!

Cap our natural resource use!
Over the past 60 years, people have influenced environment more extensively than in
any period in the history. Due to the world population growth and to
overconsumption, human demand on exploitation of natural resources is increasing.
This causes damages which can be irreversible. Realizing the threat, stakeholders
from all around Europe established a coalition on capping resource use in order to
decrease the pressure caused by humans to the level of sustainability.
The incredible rate of economic growth, which is based mostly on increasing resource
exploitation, cannot continue forever within a finite system like the Earth. Its carrying capacity was
already exceeded in the seventies. Since that time humanity has been in a state of overshoot where
people are consuming natural resources faster than they can be regenerated. In other worlds, we are
using up resources meant to be served future generations.
However, the effect of unsustainable resource use can be already felt in the growing number of
economic, environmental and social issues: such as economic tensions because of resource depletion
and unequal access to scarce resources; climate change and biodiversity loss but also health problems
due to pollution.
Until increased efforts to baffle humanity’s operation into the framework of sustainability,
economic, environmental and social problems will be regenerated.
Solutions till now – grabbing the end of the pipe
Current situation shows that stakeholders often tend to focus on problems within the
established sectoral framework and apply end-of pipe solutions: economic actors work out strategies to
aid resource depletion; environmentalists designate pieces of land as protected areas to save the
valuable resource biodiversity; and transport and industrial pollution limits are set to protect people’s
health and the planet’s climate.
Decision-makers with different backgrounds and interests are often not aware of numerous
interactions and connections between the only seemingly disconnected issues and they prefer not to go
deeper into discussions and relationships between them. This leads to focus on current situation in
the short run within the existing sectoral framework instead of looking into the future and trying to
develop holistic solutions.
The best way to tackle the problem – cap our resource use
Parties to the Resource Cap Coalition are convinced that effective and long-term solutions to
today’s many folded issues are only possible if we are able to see the root of the problems and ready to
tackle it. In our opinion it is crucial to look beyond the pressures and consider the driving forces
behind them. These driving forces are three leveled.
The structural drivers, such as production and consumption patterns, the urban and spatial
structures cause, directly environmental pressures like pollution, habitat degradation or exploitation of
natural resources. These drivers are determined by institutional ones, such as the current legislative
and economic regulatory framework, which allow the loss of natural heritage not to be compensated.
Therefore, the framework lets energy expensive products and services flourish due to the cheap
unlimited access to natural resources comparing to human labor. The institutional drivers are lying on
cultural driving forces such as values and approaches of the society. Among these values the far most
dominant is the belief in material wealth and in the continuous growth of GDB on the expense of other
values such as healthy environment, happiness or security.
Analyzing the complex structure of the drivers, shows that introducing resource use caps would
change their course. On one hand, due to the limits, natural resources would become scarce globally,
which would lead to the spread of products and services with low energy demand. This would not only
result in decreased pressure on the environment, but would have positive social consequences because
of the re-spread of human labor. On the other hand, people start consuming less due to the locally
produced goods and appreciating nature more.
The time is ripe to kick off the coalition on capping resource use
Resource efficiency is widely on the political agenda right now. Using this momentum, Parties to
the Resource Cap Coalition want to emphasize that this initiative should also contribute to overall
reduction limits in order to avoid Jevons’ Paradox. This paradox explains that more efficient use of a
resource normally leads to increased use of the same resource rather than to its reduction. That is why
efforts on resource efficiency have to be carefully designed not to be eaten up by parallel growing
demand.
We are aware of the importance of specialists operating in different environmental, social and
economic fields in this process that is why we established a coalition of European stakeholders
interested in resource use capping. Current measures have been failed to tackle the problems also
because there has not been enough connection between different organizations. In our opinion more
discussion is needed especially on seemingly disconnected issues. Our goal is to share our experience,
speak with common voice and take more holistic approach. This would enable us to influence more
effectively all the ongoing processes both at European and global levels.
Parties to the Resource Cap Coalition strongly believe that in order to tackle overuse of resources,
strict regulations should be put in place and indicators should be developed to measure their success.
By 2012, we would like all decision makers to realize that capping resource use is essential and by
2014, see relevant measures are taken. In order to make these changes happen, in 2011 we will carry
out a public European campaign for reduced resource use and a high level event for decision makers to
mainstream the idea of resource capping.
Parties to the Resource Cap Coalition: 3rd November 2010, Hungary
· CEEweb for Biodiversity

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