Documents considered by the Committee on 24 November - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

15 Implementation of EU biodiversity action plan



+ ADDs 1-4

COM(10) 548

Commission Report: The 2010 assessment of implementing the EU biodiversity action plan

Legal base
Document originated8 October 2010
Deposited in Parliament15 October 2010
DepartmentEnvironment, Food & Rural Affairs
Basis of considerationEM of 17 November 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone, but see footnotes
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


15.1 The Commission has said that biodiversity is integral to sustainable development, and that, together with climate change, its loss is the most critical global environmental threat: and, as the EU had set itself the target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010, it adopted in 2006 a Biodiversity Action Plan[69] to speed up progress. This identified four key policy areas — biodiversity within the EU, the EU and global biodiversity, biodiversity and climate change, and the knowledge base — and ten related priority objectives, but, after it had become clear that the EU would not achieve its target, the Commission put forward in January 2010 a further Communication[70] as a first step towards that objective. Its aim was to stimulate informed debate by identifying the issues at stake and the steps needed to realise the EU's goals of contributing to international discussions on a global vision beyond 2010 as part of a plan to implement the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

15.2 That Communication noted that several factors had prevented the EU from achieving its 2010 target, and needed to be addressed. These included gaps in the implementation of Natura 2000; a number of major policy gaps, notably on soils and invasive species, and the need for better coordination on infrastructure development and planning; gaps in knowledge and data at Member State, EU and global levels; the need to improve the integration of biodiversity concerns into other policies; the need for funding for biodiversity in the EU to be properly assessed; considering the issue of equity within the EU and at a global level, given the uneven spread of biodiversity; securing a successful outcome to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and making a success of the negotiations on reducing emissions from deforestation. The Commission also suggested the following four levels of ambition for a 2020 headline target:

  • significantly reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020;
  • halting the loss of such services by 2020;
  • halting the loss of such services by 2020, and restoring them as far as possible;
  • halting the loss of these services by 2020, restoring them as far as possible, and stepping up the EU's contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.

The current document

15.3 In this latest report on the implementation of the Action Plan, the Commission notes that EU biodiversity remains under serious pressure, and that the global situation is even more alarming. It then seeks to summarise recent progress under the various policy areas and objectives, and to identify four key supporting measures.


Safeguarding EU habitats and species

15.4 The Commission notes that there has been a significant improvement in the completion of the Natura 2000 network, particularly as regards the marine environment, and that the focus is shifting towards effective management and restoration. It also highlights the increasing emphasis on environmental assessment, and the development of the significant biodiversity in its outermost regions.

Conserving biodiversity in the wider EU countryside

15.5 The Commission notes that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the policy instrument having the most significant impact on biodiversity in rural areas, and that, following the "Health Check" in 2009, the environmental conditions attached to cross-compliance have been amended, and biodiversity identified as one of the five new challenges facing the CAP: on the other hand, the abolition of compulsory set-aside, has been a set-back. Other areas highlighted by the Commission include progress towards greater energy sustainability, particularly through the Renewable Energy Directive, the development of river basin management plans, and the protection of forests and soils.

Conserving biodiversity and ecosystems in the wider EU marine environment

15.6 The Commission says that it is to adopt a Decision relating to good environmental status for marine waters, as a key step in the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and that its 2009 Green Paper[71] on the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was the first step towards achieving the commitment made by the EU at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 to achieve maximum sustainable yields for depleted stocks by 2015.

Compatibility of regional development with biodiversity in the EU

15.7 The Commission notes that the Cohesion Policy in the period 2007-13 addresses both directly and indirectly the preservation of biodiversity, and that other measures, such as waste water treatment and natural risk prevention, are also significant. It says that all but two Member States have, to some degree or other, allocated funding for nature and biodiversity, and it draws attention to the efforts made by it and the Council to promote "green infrastructure".

Reduction of the impact on EU biodiversity of invasive alien species

15.8 The Commission says that the Communication[72] it put forward in 2008 on developing a strategy for invasive species has triggered a debate, with the Council subsequently calling for an effective strategy to fill the gaps at EU level.


Strengthening the effectiveness of international governance

15.9 The Commission says that, since the most recent conference of the parties to the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity, it has focussed efforts on ensuring delivery of the commitments made, and on preparing for the next conference, where the three key issues — agreeing a revised strategic plan for the Convention for 2010-20, agreeing a Protocol on access to genetic resources and the sharing of the resultant benefits, and a financing target for global biodiversity — will have a crucial bearing on the world's ability to address the biodiversity challenge. In the meantime, it notes that, despite intensive efforts from the EU, the global target of significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 has not been reached.

Strengthening support for biodiversity in EU external assistance

15.10 The Commission notes that average annual external assistance of Member States for biodiversity in the period 2003-06 was some €740 million, representing 48% of all biodiversity-related development assistance, whilst the biodiversity related activities in Commission's own portfolio of external actions in the period 2007-09 amounted to about €325 million. It also draws attention to the large increase in funds for the Global Environment Facility; to the use of environmental impact assessments by bilateral and multilateral development agencies; the mid-term review of the Environment and Natural Resources Thematic Programme; and the biodiversity training given to EU staff.

Reducing the impact of international trade on global biodiversity

15.11 The Commission observes the major pressure on biodiversity arising from the illegal trade in endangered species, and the leading role played by the EU within the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). It also draws attention to the voluntary partnerships entered into under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative, measures to combat illegal logging, and the priority given to use of Sustainability Impact Assessments in trade agreements.


Supporting biodiversity adaptation to climate change

15.12 The Commission notes that the EU has continued to highlight the important links between biodiversity and climate change, and that this is increasingly reflected in policy development, particularly as regards the recognition that protecting and restoring biodiversity provides cost-effective opportunities for climate change mitigation or adaptation. In addition, it draws attention to its White Paper[73] on Adaptation to Climate Change; the Accord reached at the Copenhagen Conference, including the provision on financial assistance from industrialised countries; the call to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; and the Global Climate Change Alliance.


Strengthening the knowledge base for sustainable use of biodiversity

15.13 The Commission says that considerable progress has been achieved over the past two years in enhancing the relevant knowledge base, both within the EU and globally, and it draws attention to a number of initiatives aimed at further improvements. These include the establishment of an EU Biodiversity Baseline (and related indicators); the launching of a Biodiversity Information System for Europe; Framework Programmes under the European Research Area; the introduction of an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; and the launching by the G8 of a study on the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity.


Ensuring adequate financing

15.14 The Commission points out that the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) remains the most important EU funding source for Natura 2000 and biodiversity in the EU, though the European Regional Development Fund and the European Fisheries Fund are also significant. It adds that it has proved difficult to establish a methodology to determine how much EU funding has been used by Member States for nature and biodiversity, but it notes that at present only about 20% of the total financing needs for managing protected areas, including the Natura 2000 network, are being met. It also draws attention to the €836 million available to find nature and biodiversity from the LIFE+ programme in the period 2007-13.

Strengthening EU decision-making and implementation

15.15 The Commission says that, as it had previously identified information gaps as one of the likely reasons for the EU not meeting its 2010 biodiversity target, it has been actively addressing this issue. It also notes that a Communication[74] on implementing EU Environmental Law as adopted in 2008, a European Network of Environmental authorities was set up in 2009, and that Member States have made considerable efforts to provide it with comprehensive information in relation to the Biodiversity Action Plan.

Building partnerships

15.16 The Commission suggests that the building of partnerships is one of the requirements for a successful biodiversity policy, and it records the launching in 2010 of a EU Business and Biodiversity Platform and of a partnership with the European Investment Bank for the development of innovative financial instruments for biodiversity.

Public education, awareness and participation

15.17 The Commission says that the EU has continued its efforts to raise public awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation, with the launching of a major EU Biodiversity Campaign, and the carrying out of a Eurobarometer opinion poll.


15.18 The Commission says that research and monitoring have been intensified in order to fill key knowledge gaps, and that the European Environment Agency is about to publish a knowledge gap analysis for ecosystem indicators. It also notes an initiative under the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme to provide data to support the monitoring of both the marine and terrestrial environment.

15.19 The Commission concludes by saying that, although the 2010 objective in the Biodiversity Action Plan has not been met, significant progress has been made over the last two years on the Natura 2000 sites, improving the knowledge base, and establishing further linkages between biodiversity and climate change, but that more progress needs to be made on integrating biodiversity considerations into other sectoral policies, making the necessary funding available, and filling existing policy gaps. It says that it is currently working on a future biodiversity policy framework, and that it will be drawing on the findings of this latest assessment.

The Government's view

15.20 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 17 November 2010, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Natural Environment and Fisheries at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Richard Benyon) notes that the report is primarily retrospective in terms of assessing progress towards the 2010 target, but that it will also inform the development of the new EU Biodiversity Action Plan. He adds that the UK supports such a development as a contribution towards the global framework agreed recently under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity.


15.21 This report by the Commission seeks to identify the progress made towards the EU's aim of halting biodiversity loss, and in particular the steps taken to pursue the detailed policy objectives set out in the Biodiversity Action Plan, including those where further work is still needed. For that reason, we are drawing it to the attention of the House, but, as it would appear to have been prepared essentially for information, and (we understand) no discussion has been planned by the Council, we are content to clear it.

69   (27531) 9769/06: see HC 34-xxxiii (2005-06), chapter 10 (28 June 2006). Back

70   (31270) 5614/10: see HC 5-x (2009-10), chapter 6 (9 February 2010). Back

71   (30556) 8977/09: see HC 19-xviii (2008-09), chapter 2 (3 June 2009). Back

72   (30237) 16813/08: see HC 19-viii (2008-09), chapter 14 (25 February 2009). Back

73   (30535) 8526/09: see HC 19-xvii (2008-09), chapter 5 (13 May 2009). Back

74   (30217) 16222/08: see HC 19-v (2008-09), chapter 14 (28 January 2009). Back

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