ECR rapporteur convinces the European Parliament not to revise the nature directives

Kay SWINBURNE

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has supported the call of MEP Mark Demesmaeker (N-VA / ECR) to oppose a revision of the EU’s nature directives. Demesmaeker instead pushes for a full and better implementation of existing legislation and for an increase in support for investing in biodiversity, the unique variety of species, habitats and ecosystems on Earth: “Biodiversity is not only about plants and animals; it encompasses human beings and our society as a whole. It forms an essential building block for our well-being and economic welfare.”

Biodiversity in Europe is not in good shape. The ecological footprint of the EU-28 Member States is twice as large as its biocapacity. Only 23 percent of species and 16 percent of their habitats have a favourable status. Demesmaeker: “The mid-term review of the European Biodiversity Strategy 2011 – 2020 makes it crystal clear that substantial additional efforts are needed to reach the 2020 goals. Biodiversity provides numerous valuable ecosystem services on which we are extremely dependent, such as clean air, clean water and pollination. Missing the 2020 target is estimated to cost 50 billion euro a year. We therefore need to highlight that investing in nature is also necessary from a socio-economic point of view and that nature and economic development are not mutually exclusive.”

In his report, Demesmaeker calls on the Member States to take a multi-stakeholder approach to achieve the 2020-targets. The nature directives (the Birds and the Habitat Directive) play a crucial role and need to be fully implemented, not revised. Demesmaeker was able to raise broad support on this issue across political groups at short notice.

However, policymakers need to do much more, Demesmaeker continues: “A recent opinion poll highlights that 8 out of 10 EU citizens consider the impact of biodiversity loss as serious. Nevertheless, the Natura 2000 network – the centrepiece of EU nature and biodiversity policy – remains unknown to most citizens. Policymakers need to strongly emphasize the contribution of nature to our health, well-being and welfare. Biodiversity matters to everyone and we can all foster biodiversity individually, for example in our own garden.”

The report is expected to get a broad majority at the February plenary sitting in Strasbourg.