Europeans support stronger action to fight biodiversity loss

by Search Gate staff. Published Fri 02 Oct 2015 11:43
Three-quarters of Europeans believe more could be done to protect nature
Three-quarters of Europeans believe more could be done to protect nature

More than three-quarters of Europeans believe mankind has a responsibility to look after nature and halt biodiversity loss, according to the findings of a new survey.

The research, conducted by the EC’s statistical office Eurobarometer, found that than two out of three (67%) members of the public agreed that looking after nature is essential for tackling climate change

The results were published today as part of a mid-term review of EU biodiversity strategy that assessed whether the EU is on track to achieve the objective of halting biodiversity loss by 2020.

The results show progress in many areas, but highlight the need for much greater effort to deliver commitments on implementation by Member States. Nature's capacity to clean the air and water, to pollinate crops and to limit the impacts of catastrophes such as flooding is being compromised, with potentially significant unforeseen costs to society and our economy.

The EU-wide opinion poll confirms that the majority of Europeans are concerned about the effects of biodiversity loss and recognise the negative impact this can have on human health and wellbeing, and ultimately on the region’s long-term economic development.

The EU adopted a Strategy to stop this loss of biodiversity by 2020. Today's assessment, which comes midway through the strategy, highlights that much more needs to be done on the ground to translate the EU's policies into action.

Firstly, EU nature legislation needs to be better implemented by Member States. More than three quarters of the important natural habitats in the EU are now in an unfavourable state, and many species are threatened with extinction. Halting biodiversity loss will also depend on how effectively biodiversity concerns are integrated into agriculture, forestry, fisheries, regional development and trade policies.

The reformed Common Agricultural Policy provides opportunities for enhanced integration of biodiversity concerns, but it will be the extent to which Member States put in place the measures, nationally, that will determine the success of the CAP.

The report found that ultimately, our natural capital needs to be recognised and appreciated, not only within the limitations of our protected areas, but more extensively throughout our lands and seas. The Commission is currently undertaking a fitness check of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives to assess whether it is achieving its valuable objectives in the most efficient way.

European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said: “There are plenty of lessons to be drawn from this report – some good progress, and good examples to be emulated, but much more work is needed to close the gaps and reach our biodiversity targets by 2020. There is no room for complacency – losing biodiversity means losing our life-support system. We can't afford that, and neither can our economy."

Restoring natural habitats and building green infrastructure remains a challenge for Europe. The EU Green Infrastructure Strategy – once implemented – should deliver multiple benefits across a range of sectors including agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Invasive alien species are also one of the fastest growing threats to biodiversity in Europe, causing significant damage to agriculture, forestry and fisheries, costing the EU at least EUR 12 billion a year.

A new EU Regulation has entered into force to fight the spread of invasive alien species and work is underway to establish a list of invasive species of EU concern by early 2017.

On the global scale, the EU greatly contributes to halting biodiversity loss. Together with its Member States, it is the biggest financial donor for biodiversity conservation. The EU has taken initial steps to reduce indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, including wildlife trade, illegal fishing and to integrate biodiversity into its trade agreements.

The Eurobarometer survey shows the concerns expressed by Europeans with regard to the current trends on biodiversity. At least three quarters of Europeans think there are serious threats to animals, plants and ecosystems at a national, European and global level, and more than half think they will be personally affected by biodiversity loss.

Other main findings of the poll include:

* At least eight out of ten Europeans consider the various effects of biodiversity loss to be serious. More than half think they will be personally affected by biodiversity loss.

* Pollution and man-made disasters are considered the biggest threats to biodiversity.

* More than three quarters of Europeans (76%) believe that mankind has a responsibility to look after nature and that it is important to stop biodiversity loss, while more than two out of three (67%) totally agree that looking after nature is essential for tackling climate change and six out of 10 (60%) totally agree that our health and well-being are based upon nature and biodiversity.

* More than nine out of ten Europeans (93%) think the EU should better inform citizens about the importance of biodiversity.

* Almost two thirds of respondents (65%) feel they are making a personal effort to protect biodiversity and nature.

* About a quarter of respondents (26%) have heard of the Natura 2000 network, including 16% who say they have heard about it but don’t know what it is. The majority (73%) have never heard of it.

* The majority of Europeans have heard of the term “biodiversity” (60%), but less than one third (30%) know what it means. Additionally, most do not feel informed about biodiversity loss (66%).

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