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The European Commission (EC) has committed to protecting 30% of the EU’s land and oceans by 2030 as part of the European Green Deal, in a plan tentatively welcomed by environment groups who warned far-reaching ambitions must not only exist “on paper”. The 10-year plan, newly published, includes commitments to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50%, plant 3bn trees by 2030 and reverse the decline in pollinators. Within the 30% protected areas, a third of land and sea will be under “strict protection”, meaning there should be no human intervention besides minimal management to keep the area in good condition for wildlife.

Strictly protected areas will include carbon-rich habitats such as primary and old-growth forests, peatlands, wetlands and grasslands. Currently only 3% of land and 1% of marine areas are under strict protection. The EC aims to raise at least € 20 billion (£ 18 billion) per year to fund the the plan. The money will come from private and public funding at EU and national level. A significant proportion of the EU’s climate budget will also be invested in biodiversity, the report said.

The 10-year plan to tackle the global biodiversity crisis is also putting pressure on reworking the common agricultural policy (CAP), which has been accused of driving biodiversity decline through its € 60 billion per year subsidy system that primarily rewards farmers for the amount of land they have, rather than for making environmental improvements.

The report says 10% of agricultural areas will be transformed into “high-diversity landscapes” with the creation of features such as buffer strips, hedges, ponds and fallow land. A quarter of agricultural land will be managed organically by 2030.

The EU’s new Strategy comes after decades of catastrophic loss of biodiversity, with wildlife populations falling on average by 60% in the past 40 years as a result of human activities. The Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted the link between environmental and human health, making the case for ambitious action clearer than ever, the report says.

The new Strategy is expected to be brought to the table at the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity, COP15, in Kunming in 2021. Delegates from 190 countries will thrash out global biodiversity targets for the next decade and the EU is likely to put pressure on other countries to follow its lead.

It follows a text drafted by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in January, 2020 that called for a global commitment to protect at least 30% of the planet in the next decade.                                                                  The aims of the new biodiversity strategy

The EC’s 27-page 2020 biodiversity strategy pledges to: Legally protect at least 30% of the EU’s land and sea with ecological corridors linking reserves. Currently 26% of land and 11% of seas are protected; Enforce “strict protection” on a third of protected areas, including carbon-rich peatlands, wetlands and all primary and old-growth forests. Strict protection means there will be no human intervention other than management required to maintain the area for wildlife. Currently 3% of the land and 1% of marine areas are under strict protection; Outline legally binding targets in 2021 to restore degraded and carbon-rich ecosystems such as meadows, wetlands, peatlands, bogs, marshes, grasslands and forests; Ensure habitats and species protected by the Habitats and Birds Directives show no deterioration. At least 30% of those not currently in favourable status will need to reach that status, or at least show improvement; Restore 25.000km of river to free-flowing status by removing barriers and reinstating floodplains; Compel European cities with at least 20.000 inhabitants have Urban Greening Plans in place by the end of 2021, which should include creating urban forests and farms, green roofs and walls and tree-lined streets. Use of pesticides in urban green spaces should be eliminated and harmful practices such as leaf blowers and excessive mowing will be limited; Plant at least 3bn trees by 2030, “in full respect of ecological principles”, while 10% of agricultural land will be transformed into “high-diversity” landscapes with the creation of features such as buffer strips, hedges, ponds and fallow land; Ensure 25% of agricultural land is managed organically by 2030, which would mean tripling the annual conversion rate of organic farming. Pesticide use will be reduced by 50%; Spend at least €20bn on the 10-year plan.

 

Sơn Tùng (AFP source)

(Nguồn: Bài đăng trên Tạp chí Môi trường số Chuyên đề Tiếng Anh II/2020)

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