Author: Kate Reilly – EU Programme Officer: Nature Based Solutions – IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)
The European Commission has just released the new EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030. Humans and human society are dependent on nature for our physical and mental wellbeing, our economy and our ability to cope with climate change, pandemics and other threats and disasters. Investing in the protection and restoration of nature is critical for enhancing our resilience to these threats and will be central to our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
The new strategy gives Europe’s contribution to ensuring that by 2050 all of the world’s ecosystems are restored, resilient, and adequately protected and will be a central component of the EU’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The strategy focuses on protecting and restoring nature in Europe, enabling transformative change, and an ambitious global biodiversity agenda.
Due to their biodiversity value and provision of numerous ecosystem services, forests are a key component of protecting and restoring European nature with aim of increasing the quantity, quality and resilience of EU forests. The strategy recognises that foresters have a key role to play in restoring and sustaining forest biodiversity.
To safeguard nature in Europe, a Trans-European Nature Network is proposed. For this, defining, mapping, monitoring and strictly protecting the remaining primary and old-growth forests, ecosystems rich in biodiversity and carbon sequestration potential, will be crucial. The strategy notes the economic benefits of protected areas, particularly the large numbers of jobs created for implementing and managing them.
Improving forest health will increase their resilience to climate change, and to the likely increase in fires, droughts, pests and diseases, as well as support a more resilient economy. As part of the EU Nature Restoration Plan, which will include a proposal for binding nature restoration targets, a roadmap for planting 3 billion additional trees in the EU by 2030 will be produced.
To restore biodiversity in existing forests, the strategy states that management plans should be in place in all public forests and an increased number of private forests. Biodiversity-friendly forest management practices such as closer-to-nature forestry should be further developed. The Commission will produce guidelines on biodiversity-friendly afforestation, reforestation and closer-to-nature forestry practices to support these efforts. The Forest Information System for Europe will be further developed to develop a clearer picture of the condition of European forests.
These actions and others to tackle the biodiversity crisis will require large investments. The strategy includes several means of mobilising finance, including the share of the EU budget dedicated to climate action and the European Green Deal Investment Plan. A new European governance framework for biodiversity will allow obligations, commitments and implementation to be monitored and reviewed.