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“Bring Nature Back”: EU’s Plan to Prioritise the Planet

Nick Webb outlines the European Union's new Biodiversity Plan to “Bring nature back” to the EU within a decade.


In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Union has adopted an ambitious new Biodiversity plan. The new amendment, signed off in May by the European Commission, has an ambitious goal: to put Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030.”


The plan, which aims to “Bring nature back to our lives says that the recent pandemic is showing how interconnected the planet’s ecosystem is, and thus how important the health of the planet is to our own health. The document plans to place 30% of the EU’s land and 30% of its seas under strict protection, meaning that there will be no human intervention in these areas other than a minimal level of management.


As such, the 10 year plan aims to cut the uses of chemical pesticides in the EU by 50%, improve and widen the network of protected habitats across countries, making the protected areas a coherent network large enough to support significant biodiversity in plant and animal life, and build a “truly coherent Trans-European Nature Network.”


The new strategy aims to restore pre-existing ecosystems which have fallen into disrepair by 2030, and manage them sustainably, as well as encourage farmers to support long-term sustainability.


Modernising Farming


At the same time as signing off on the new biodiversity plan, the European Commission has also agreed on a new Farm to Fork strategy designed to promote sustainable practices among farmers, as well as encourage agricultural land to be used to effectively encourage the return of more diverse species of birds and insects.


This, along with an updated Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), will help monitor farmers’ successes, progress, food security and income. These plans together aim to implement a broader and more unified way to farm using fewer pesticides, and to encourage stricter animal welfare standards.


The Farm to Fork strategy gives strict guidelines and targets for farmers, including a 50% reduction in the use of pesticides, reducing use of fertilisers by 20%, reducing the sales of antimicrobials by 50%, and eventually having 25% of land used for “organic farming.” These changes are all designed to “ensure that the healthy option is the easiest for EU citizens.”

Investing in the Future


These strategies are key parts of the European Green Deal which aims to help strengthen our resistance to climate threats, future pandemics, disease, food shortages and forest fires. In order to implement these strategies, the European Commission has been granted annual funding of €20 million from both private and national funding sources.


Studies cited in the plan show that for every euro invested into marine protected areas, there is return of at least €3. The Nature Fitness Check has also shown that the value of the EU’s land dedicated to the protection of endangered species is (Natura 2000 areas) is €200-300 billion per year, and the additional investment could create up to 500,000 new jobs. Essentially, looking after the planet will prove crucial for looking after our pockets.


Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Nature is vital for our physical and mental wellbeing… This new Biodiversity Strategy builds on what has worked in the past, and adds new tools that will set us on the path to true sustainability, with benefits for all.”


 

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