Following the adoption of the EU Green Deal, 2020 marked the publication of many related strategies such as the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. It is the responsibility of ELO to be at the forefront of the discussions related to its implementation.
Right after Its publication in May 2020, ELO produced its official position paper which was reviewed by the ELO Policy Group and then sent to relevant decision-makers (MEPs, EC officials, Members States representatives etc…) We recognized that the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 is the right path to move ahead. However, ELO felt it important to note that the EU nature conservation measures, and especially the EU Birds and Habitats Directives’ obligations, still pose a challenge in implementation for many private land managers. The three pillars of sustainability: economic viability, environmental protection, and social equity, remain essential elements for a successful implementation of EU nature legislation. Considering that almost 95% of Europe’s land is in private hands, landowners should be considered prime partners in ensuring the success of any biodiversity targets. Based on a voluntary commitment, The Wildlife Estates Label shows the importance of private land managers actions towards biodiversity preservation (see the article on Wildlife Estates Label) The strict 10% protection target is one of the first bottlenecks of the strategy. ELO is worried that this strict protection will prevent the adoption of any genuine protection measure and therefore would mean the cessation of all human activities. In fact, for numerous sites, the species and habitats and their ecosystems may be entirely dependent on the continuation of such activities for their longterm survival. Furthermore, without sustainable management, forests and ecosystems are more likely to be at risk with regards to climate change effects. It is our view that a blank restriction of uses in the designated areas will be counterproductive and reinforce the lack of understanding between decision-makers and land users. The examination of the new binding target for restoration has also started with the European Commission. ELO is in favour of a robust and efficient action plan instead of a binding target. We consider that by developing payments for ecosystem services in line with market practice; nature conservation could become a thriving part of our economy. ELO, therefore, strongly welcomes that this new binding target will be evaluated against an impact assessment. It will require the full involvement of land managers with a clear signal to put in place the necessary financial mechanisms to support their actions. The ELO proposes to focus on improving the use of existing funds but also making sure they are made available by public authorities in due time and without complex binding rules. The potential of market-based solutions such as tax credits and incentives must be part of the solution.
ELO, with the support of the Life programme under the project “Land Is For Ever”, reviewed existing and innovative mechanisms, to present to the European Commission a list of tools that can be supported from the individual landowners’ perspective.
Forest issues through the protection of old-growth forests are also at the core of the strategy. The EC proposes to define, map, monitor and strictly protect all of the EU’s remaining primary and oldgrowth forests. European Commission will also develop guidelines on closer-to-nature-forestry practices and biodiversity-friendly afforestation and reforestation. The Commission has set a goal to plant at least 3 billion additional trees in the EU by 2030. This will be carried out in parallel with the new EU Forest Strategy. ELO has recently published a joint paper on that issue with WWF. See article page on forestry.
First considerations on the new EU Biodiversity strategy !
Please read the full statement here: ELO position paper- EU 2030 Biodiversity strategy, May 2020
To put biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, the EU Commission proposed to step up the protection and restoration of nature by improving and widening the network of protected areas and by developing an ambitious EU Nature Restoration Plan.
As privileged observers and custodians of Europe’s nature, landowners are particularly impacted by the progressive disappearance of numerous species and habitats in the area where they are living and working. Like every citizen, and even before reaching its climax in the public opinion, many land managers were conscious of the necessity of a transformative change towards a more nature-based land management. The imperative of making a living in low-margin land-based activities (farming and forestry) in an era of rapid technical change meant that it has taken time to realise the negative side effects of some activities. At this point of our economic development landowners are of course ready to reshape how they manage land to embrace nature-based approaches to a higher degree and to try and restore lost natural capital.
Biodiversity and Natura 2000
The debate in 2019 was focusing on the post-EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and increased contribution of the Nature Directives to the achievement of the goal of halting and reversing biodiversity loss. The new President of the Commission presented the New Green Deal and priority actions will be translated into EU legislation including the CAP. The publication of the Biodiversity Strategy was delayed until early 2020.
ELO actively participated in the debate during the Nature Directors meetings, GGBN (Coordination Group for Biodiversity and Nature), and related subgroups (MAES, IAS, new Forest and Nature etc). ELO highlighted that during and after the REFIT process, the legislation is in place and fit the purpose, additional layers are not necessary but better implementation is required, especially in order to encourage participation of the private sector where most of the Natura 2000 areas are located. There are already a sufficient number of indicators in place in the draft legislation for the CAP through which the environmental delivery of the new policy can be ascertained. ELO does not see the need to add to the already strong environmental conditionality, as some others have proposed, neither does ELO believe that all the problems relating to the environment can be solved through more constraints on agriculture, forestry and rural activities.
Farmers, foresters, rural entrepreneurs need to know what is expected from them in order to protect and promote biodiversity and what should be an appropriate environment to achieve this objective. ELO is currently working, through projects and initiatives, on best practices at various levels of decision making favouring the participation of private stakeholders to specific voluntary schemes and additional biodiversity friendly practices.
ELO also pushes for decisions at local level to be taken on a scientific basis, especially when dealing with species population, such as for large carnivores and advocates for better stakeholder consultation paving the way for a smooth implementation of the legislation in the long term, even if the cost of organising this consultations is considerable. For specific habitats, we are supportive of the results based payment going beyond the simple action/non action payment system. Nevertheless the process needs to be scientifically based, agreed with stakeholders and taking into account all the costs of implementation.
2020 will be an intensive year as biodiversity will also be influenced by the CAP and the "From the Farm to the Fork" Strategy.