EU needs legally binding targets to protect nature, say lawmakers

Flags of the European Union fly in front of the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium on May 5, 2021. REUTERS / Yves Herman / File Photo

The European Union needs legally binding measures to protect nature and biodiversity, the European Parliament said on Wednesday, warning that previous voluntary plans had failed.

The EU Executive Commission published a biodiversity protection plan last year and set targets to halve the use of chemical pesticides, reduce the use of fertilizers by 20% and expand land and sea protected areas by 2030.

The European Parliament on Wednesday approved a report calling for targets to be set by law and backed by measures to enforce them.

“We are currently experiencing a global crisis, not just in the European Union, of climate and biodiversity,” said Spanish lawmaker Cesar Luena, who wrote the report.

The EU has enshrined its climate change objectives in law, but not yet those for nature protection.

The latest EU biodiversity strategy is the third in the block. Previous plans have failed to prevent unsustainable agriculture, forestry and urban sprawl from degrading natural habitats.

Key indicators of the health of nature are flashing red. Most of Europe’s protected habitats and species have a poor or poor conservation status, while a third of bee and butterfly species have declining populations.

Setting targets in law could be difficult. EU laws must be approved by a majority of Member States and the EU Parliament, and biodiversity targets have already proved controversial in EU negotiations on agricultural subsidies, Member States and the EU. Parliament disagreeing on the advisability of integrating them into the subsidy rules. Read more

Brussels also wants to build momentum ahead of a global biodiversity summit in China in October, where nearly 200 countries will negotiate a new agreement to protect nature.

The EU has joined scientists’ recommendations that to halt the decline of nature, 30% of the planet should be protected by protected areas and conservation. Parliament said the EU should push for this commitment to be legally binding.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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