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4.9.

2009 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 211/47

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on a new impetus for halting biodiversity loss

(2009/C 211/06)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

— notes the failure of policies to stem the erosion of biodiversity in Europe by 2010, which requires
a proactive strategy which must be reflected in a systemic approach and supported over the long-
term, well beyond 2010. This strategy must fully involve local and regional authorities, with
Member States providing them with the necessary legal and financial means;

— calls on the European Union, the Member States and local and regional authorities to set up a
strict system of eco-conditionality for grants and funding. It urges the Commission to encourage
the Member States both to review their systems of taxation and to make national promotional
funds more supportive for biodiversity;

— considers that the Natura 2000 network sites need to be consolidated in most countries and calls
on the Member States to assume their responsibilities for marine areas and groundwater in this
regard. Tailored management plans for Natura 2000 sites involving local and regional authorities
and owners of private land and resources need to be drawn up and implemented;

— considers that an ‘environmental framework’ as a genuine natural infrastructure needs to be


urgently created and calls for action to ensure that all measures taken to curb greenhouse gas
emissions do not have a damaging effect on biological diversity. Furthermore, it believes that only
at European level a strategy for combating invasive species can hope to be effective;

— considers that a biodiversity conservation strategy can only be successful if it is embraced by the
general public and encourages local and regional authorities to get involved and be assisted in
setting up high quality awareness-raising and training programmes.
C 211/48 EN Official Journal of the European Union 4.9.2009

Rapporteur: Mr René Souchon (FR/PES), President of Auvergne Regional Council

Reference Documents
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European
Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — A mid-term assessment of
implementing the EC Biodiversity Action Plan
COM(2008) 864 final
and the
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European
Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Towards an EU Strategy on
Invasive Species
COM(2008) 789 final

I. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS of rural areas, scientists, political decision-makers, local and


regional authorities;

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

1. notes that — according to the opinion of scientists and


researchers — plant and animal species are disappearing at a far General comments and role of local and regional authorities
faster rate than has ever been witnessed since life began;

8. believes that the consequences for mankind of the loss of


2. notes the seminal importance of biodiversity for the biodiversity can, like the consequences of climate change, be
survival of mankind, particularly through ecosystem systems, extremely serious;
for both future and current generations, but also for the present
generation;
9. notes the failure of policies to stem the erosion of
biodiversity in Europe by 2010, due to the clear gap between
3. highlights as of now the impact of climate change on the the promises made and the action actually taken and the
development and distribution of living species; measures employed;

4. points out that man is incapable of living in a purely


mineral environment, and therefore concludes that changes in or 10. notes, however, the success of certain individual measures,
the erosion of biodiversity will have a dramatic impact on such as the plans to safeguard certain species of animals and
mankind; plants (Egyptian vulture, otter, Brent goose (Branta Bernicula))
and environments (Rhineland alluvial forests, the Thames), the
management plans applied in a number of labelled areas;

5. notes already the negative social and economic effects of


the loss of biodiversity and declining ecosystems;
11. believes that there is an urgent need to give a new impetus
to strategies and programmes, e.g. as part of the implementation
by all Member States of the European Landscape Convention,
6. points out that the major causes for the erosion of
which seek to achieve or contribute to the sustainable
biodiversity include the increasingly artificial state of soils, the
conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in order
fragmentation of natural areas, and the development of
that the means employed may produce tangible results;
populations of exotic plant and animal species, more intensive
agriculture, climate change and various forms of pollution;

12. to this end, believes that it is necessary to get local and


7. notes that biodiversity must be managed and conserved at regional authorities closely involved in both the formulation and
local and regional level if it is to be safeguarded worldwide, and the implementation of such programmes and, accordingly, to
recognises that, if this is to be achieved, it is important to bring provide them with the legal and financial means which are
together all local stakeholders involved in protecting biodiversity: commensurate with their responsibilities in the context of
especially businesses, organisations, owners and administrators sustainability;
4.9.2009 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 211/49

13. notes that the way in which different societies behave surpasses administrative borders and that the services provided
towards the environment and their natural resources (use or to the population are particularly dependent on;
exploitation of resources, land occupation, land use) is above all
shaped by how nature is perceived in their cultural traditions; the
Committee calls on the EU to work towards developing a new
cultural vision for biological diversity which embraces, as part of 20. urges the Member States to strictly enforce the provisions of
a general framework, both an ethical approach, highlighting the the SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment, Directive 2001/
intrinsic value of nature, the heritage of mankind, and a more 42/CE) and of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment,
utilitarian approach, which focuses on the services provided by Directive 85/337/EC) as well as the Natura 2000 procedures so
ecosystems; as to minimise the pressures on nature areas and on biological
diversity;

14. notes that the conservation of biological diversity and 21. considers that a strategy for the conservation of biological
ecosystem services (protection against soil erosion, water diversity must be ambitious if it is to achieve the objective of
purification) requires a proactive strategy which must be stemming the erosion of biological diversity. It must comprise
reflected in a systemic approach (i.e. a coordinated approach economic and financial chapters, and provide incentives for local
which brings together a number of active inter-related elements) and regional authorities and landowners. The strategies to be
and supported over the long-term or well beyond 2010. This followed must be designed and implemented at all the different
strategy must fully involve local and regional authorities; levels of the various natural systems to ensure they are consistent
and applied by everybody;

15. urges that the conservation of biological diversity be treated 22. calls on the European Union, the Member States and the
as a consideration which unifies land use planning and local and regional authorities to set up a strict system of eco-
management policy well beyond 2010, in both rural and urban conditionality for grants and funding, based on clear indicators
areas; such as those being developed within the framework of
SEBI2010, which take account of biodiversity and its interaction
with other areas;

16. calls for the incorporation of the conservation of


biodiversity as a key aspect within European policies, strategies
23. urges the Commission to encourage the Member States
and programmes well beyond 2010. A cross-cutting theme
both to review their systems of taxation and to adapt national
integrated with others, it should be viewed as a guiding principle
promotional funds for supporting business and communities to
which ensures the necessary coordination between the various
make them more biodiversity-friendly, e.g. by lowering the VAT
spatial planning and land use policies, requiring close cooper­
rates on organic farm produce or produce sourced from Natura
ation between the different Commission DGs and the firm
2000 sites. It would be particularly desirable to:
involvement of local and regional authorities;

23.1 on the one hand, lower or even abolish certain taxes as well
17. welcomes the robust method adopted by the Member States as subsidies which encourage action that has an adverse effect on
and by the Commission, which has produced a mid-term report biodiversity, in order to achieve an internal compatibility with
analysing the state of biodiversity and the implementation of laws and national codes promoting biodiversity;
national action plans; this method is founded on a self-
assessment of the projects implemented by the Member States,
which the Commission has compiled into an overall consistent
23.2 on the other hand, increase subsidies and widen the scope
vision;
of tax breaks which encourage action that stimulates biodiver­
sity;

18. welcomes the European Parliament's resolution, 2008/


2210(INI), adopted unanimously on 3 February 2009, which 24. calls on the Commission to highlight the requirements to
recognises the need for a European network of nature areas, conserve biodiversity and the related ecosystem services, along­
known as wilderness areas, i.e. areas which have been changed side criteria for health and the wellbeing of inhabitants, in the
little by human activity, and congratulates the Czech presidency discussions underway at European level on the revision of the
on holding a ‘Conference on Wilderness and Large Natural criteria used to calculate GDP (which measures only financial
Habitat Areas in Europe’ on 27 and 28 May 2009; flow and not the importance of stored capital); for example, the
costs of work caused by pollution, be it accidental or otherwise,
should be deductible, and not included in the tax base, as is
currently the case;
19. notes that, according to the principle of subsidiarity, the
sustainable conservation of biological diversity and ecosystem
services requires both measures at local level as well as a global 25. calls for the sustained continuation, well beyond 2010, of
recognition due to the functioning of ecosystems which the action taken to stem the erosion of biodiversity;
C 211/50 EN Official Journal of the European Union 4.9.2009

26. considers that the response to the current economic crisis, 34. considers that the Natura 2000 sites will only be able to
which involves comprehensive restructuring measures, requires fully contribute to the sustainable conservation of biological
biological diversity parameters to be fully integrated. The diversity if a specially tailored natural heritage management plan
importance of this environmental issue must be better taken involving local and regional authorities and owners of private
into account at all levels of regional administration, and, above land and resources is drawn up and implemented; the fact that
all, across all areas of economic activity as well; probably as much as a half of all species and over three-quarters
of European conservation habitats have an unfavourable
conservation status bears witness to the urgent need to manage
such sites;

Biodiversity in the European Union

35. considers that the Natura 2000 network and all of the
27. stresses the strong need for energetic and coordinated
wilderness areas must be fully incorporated into the biodiversity
action at European level, replicated at all levels, particularly
conservation spatial strategies implemented by the Member
regional level, to ensure it is as close as possible to the citizen;
States and by local and regional authorities;

28. stresses the originality and strength of the Natura 2000


approach, based on close cooperation between scientists and 36. calls for the urgent creation of an ‘environmental frame­
politicians, and which is geared towards the sustainable use of work’ a genuine natural infrastructure ensuring working links
natural resources. It welcomes the designated sites, which cover between Natura 2000 sites and wilderness areas as a matter of
approximately 20 % of Europe's territory; priority, as well as in urban areas and peri-urban agricultural
areas, by mobilising the various local and regional authorities,
including the regions. Existing and future linear land use
29. considers, however, that the network of SAC (Special Area developments (motorways, rail lines) should respect this
of Conservation, Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC) and SPA (Special environmental infrastructure so as to prevent the fragmentation
Protection Area, Birds Directive 79/409/EEC) sites needs to be of such natural areas and should be incorporated into the new
consolidated in most countries: the poor quality of the scientific Common Agricultural Policy;
reference data undermines any efforts to assess the extent to
which such Natura 2000 land sites meet the criteria of the
Habitats and Birds Directives. Furthermore, it calls on the
Member States to assume their responsibilities with regard to 37. notes that, given the very nature of biological diversity, the
marine areas and groundwater, biodiversity of Natura 2000 sites is subjected to substantial
pressure from neighbouring areas and considers that the
management and utilisation of areas adjacent to Natura 2000
30. emphasises the particular importance of estuarine ecosys­ sites should ensure that a sustainable contribution is made to
tems which are key habitats for the biological diversity of both conserving the biological diversity and ecosystem services on
marine and freshwater-based ecosystems, and urges that they be these sites;
given greater attention by means of a compulsory integrated
management plan, at least for those belonging to the NATURA
2000-network;
38. stresses the need to review in depth and strengthen policies
in the area of fisheries (CFP) and agriculture (CAP) and to initiate
31. stresses the need to focus intensely on the quality of soils a policy for forests introducing biological diversity and eco-
and their diversity; soil is the earth's only environmental conditionality requirements for all aid;
compartment through which all flows of materials and energy
pass; such flows are an integral part of the dynamics of every
ecosystem and, accordingly, of all species. The Directive's section
39. believes that Appendix I of Directive 2001/1/EC on the
on biological diversity, which is in the process of being
prevention and reduction of pollution should also include all
developed, should therefore be substantially strengthened;
aquaculture activity in both freshwater and marine environ­
ments, particularly where they are intensive;
32. calls for particular attention to be paid to the preservation
of the level and quality of the water table, which is of such
importance for both the biological quality and diversity of soils 40. suggests reviewing the criteria used to define indications of
(especially for agriculture) and for the supply of drinking water to geographical origin (IGO): the cultural practices concerned must
local populations; embrace the requirements of biodiversity and its evolution;

33. calls for working relations to be strengthened between


experts, irrespective of whether they are members of scientific 41. welcomes the decision of the Council of the European
bodies or other nature organisations and political decision- Union of 2 March 2009 on the application of the precautionary
makers; if they are to be effective in meeting the target of principle for genetically modified organisms (Charter of Florence,
biodiversity conservation, the decisions and successful imple­ signed on 4 February 2005), and calls for its stringent
mentation of programmes depend as much on the skills of application with the maximum possible transparency, in
scientific experts as on the competence of those who have local accordance with the Aarhus Convention (signed on 25 June
political responsibilities; 1998);
4.9.2009 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 211/51

42. voices concern at the probable consequences of energy crop is the appropriate level for controlling the introduction of exotic
cultivation, such as the large surface areas needed for biofuel animal and plant species;
crops, which will increase the incentive to cultivate areas of
fallow-land and wilderness areas, for instance through the lifting
of the requirement in August 2008 to set aside land and which 50. regrets the variety and differences in national level measures
will contribute to the deforestation of the countries of southern and regulations which severely hampers the effectiveness of
Europe. The CoR proposes that the Commission set up a means strategies to combat invasive exotic species and calls on the
of assessing the impact of biofuel crops on biodiversity, the Member States to draft the legislation needed to develop a
environment and ecosystems; coordinated and overall approach;

43. notes that species, ecosystems and flows of related materials 51. believes there is an urgent need to introduce strict measures
span administrative borders, particularly national borders, and to control imports of species which are non-indigenous to
therefore draws attention to the existence of Natura 2000 sites Europe or, at the very least, voluntary imports; equally, it draws
which are divided by a national border; accordingly, it suggests attention to the reasons which govern or underlie the relevant
creating, at European level, a cross-border spatial status or label decisions and calls for high levels of ethical vigilance;
(Crossborder Natura 2000, nature reserve or regional park) in
order to ensure the consistent management of biodiversity and
the ecosystem concerned;

The EU and global biodiversity


44. considers that a biodiversity conservation strategy can only
be successful if it is embraced by the general public, from the 52. acknowledges the particular responsibility of the European
ordinary citizen to key economic players and political leaders in Union vis-à-vis global biodiversity, in the light of both its history
the regions. This will require a high quality awareness-raising and and its trade relations and, accordingly, recognises its duty to lead
training programme, which will employ not only state of the art by example in this field;
communication methods (internet) but also school curricula;
local and regional authorities, and particularly the regions, who
are closest to the citizens, must be encouraged to get involved 53. draws particular attention to the significant risks inherent
and be assisted in this role; in opening up the markets to the distribution of potentially
invasive natural or genetically modified species; therefore, urges
the inclusion of biodiversity conservation requirements in all
45. recommends rewarding best practices which promote international trade agreements;
biological diversity and its evolution;

54. calls on the Member States to assume their full responsi­


bilities with regard to their land and marine nature areas located
beyond Europe, particularly those areas which are especially
abundant in living organisms and have original ecosystems,
Invasive species in particular irrespective of how distant they may be;

46. welcomes the fact that the Commission has given


significant consideration to the problem of exotic species that 55. urges support for international cooperation between
have become invasive, and which represent a serious danger to regions aimed at backing action, especially economic or
local biodiversity; educational campaigns, which promote the sustainable con­
servation of biodiversity at a level enabling the regions to both
encourage and support their implementation;
47. repeats its recommendation (CoR 159/2006 final) to seek
urgent action to tackle invasive species through a clear and
56. stresses the importance of setting up an international panel
proactive strategy, with the participation of local and regional
of experts in the field of biodiversity based to a large degree on
authorities; believes it is vital to draw up an ad hoc directive;
existing bodies such as the European Topic Centre on Biological
Diversity, IUCN or the IPBES (under construction);

48. considers that only a European level strategy for combating


invasive species can hope to be effective; this implies the firm
and coordinated participation of every Member State, particu­
larly in terms of drafting legislation, and their local and regional Biodiversity and climate change
authorities, particularly in terms of formulating measures to
combat such species; considers, in fact, that the regional level is
57. notes the determining influence of climatic conditions on
best placed to take effective action to monitor, prevent and
species and ecosystems and, therefore, on biodiversity, which —
eliminate invasive species;
for example in the case of ecologically unstable systems — makes
it necessary to take into account a system-based approach rather
than a species-based approach. Investing in a natural environ­
49. notes the lack of specially adapted legislation, despite the ment might lead for instance to the development of new
existence of specific texts in other fields at European level, which ecosystems;
C 211/52 EN Official Journal of the European Union 4.9.2009

58. calls for action to ensure that all measures taken to curb together teams of researchers from a variety of disciplines so as
greenhouse gas emissions do not have a damaging effect on to adopt a systematic approach, in order to achieve an overall
biological diversity; vision which takes account of both natural and cultural aspects;

59. believes there is a need to bring centres of production, 66. stresses the need to recognise and identify at national and
especially food production, closer to the consumer in order to, regional level the major causes for the erosion of biological
on the one hand, lower the energy costs generated by long- diversity and the related decline in ecosystem services with a view
distance transport and, on the other hand, improve the to elaborating and implementing effective conservation strate­
alimentary self-sufficiency and independence of individual gies;
countries;

67. emphasises the absolute necessity of formulating or


60. noting, at the same time, the way in which species completing a set of relevant indicators (e.g. SEBI-2010),
contribute to the flow of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly coordinated at European level, for the operational monitoring
CO2, across the planet, calls for the inclusion in all biodiversity of the health and evolution of biological diversity, and of
conservation programmes of a commitment to curb greenhouse ecosystems;
gas emissions, for example by conserving habitat types that
reduce CO2 and increase O2, such as forest habitats or humid
zones (marshlands, peat bogs);
68. calls on the Member States to re-establish and reform
education in the natural sciences, particularly at higher education
level, and in the areas of fieldwork, and the identification of
61. notes the renewed interest in forests, which are once again species and ecosystems;
being considered as sources of renewable energy, and stresses the
need to ensure that this does not lead to new practices (mono-
cultivation, with short rotation cycles) which may harm 69. calls on the Member States to include education on
biodiversity; biodiversity within higher technical education courses and
vocational training programmes (spatial planning, agriculture,
infrastructure construction, economics, urban planning etc);
62. insists on the fact that investments and current investments
and activities in the field of renewable energy production that
cause changes in habitat or have a damaging effect on
biodiversity (especially mini power plants and hydroelectric
power plants) should use natural resources, whilst meeting basic
Key supporting measures
criteria guaranteeing the survival and continuity of the river
environment's potential biodiversity. A fall in an activity's yield as
a result of respecting biodiversity should never imply a right to 70. insists on the absolute need to endow local, regional and
receive public aid as compensation, since this is a fixed national authorities with the human, financial and technical
obligation. Firm guarantees should also be provided for the means necessary to support programmes which are sustainable,
environmental corridor, represented by the flow of water and the i.e. beyond 2010, in order to ensure the conservation of
flood plain, to ensure that communities are not cut off; biodiversity over the long-term;

71. calls for an increase in the corresponding budgetary


envelopes and a simplification of the approval procedures
The knowledge base without reducing the benefits for biological diversity, in
particular LIFE+, as well as the better use of funding from
FEDER, FEADER, FED to promote the conservation of
63. stresses the need for access to reliable information on biodiversity;
biodiversity, its health and on the condition of ecosystems; this
knowledge must be accessible to as many people as possible;
72. urges the strict enforcement of stringent eco-conditionality
requirements when allocating financial support based on criteria
64. stresses the importance of research in the field of natural which include clear and reliable indicators such as those derived
and environmental science. To this end, an integrated network of from SEBI-2010;
protected areas and/or wilderness zones should be set up to
create an observatory of changes in the natural world,
particularly those influenced by climate change;
73. urges local administration and specialists to work together
in close cooperation from the very beginning of a project so as to
ensure a ‘systemic’ approach (i.e. a coordinated approach which
65. suggests developing research to improve how to gauge and brings together a number of active inter-related elements), be
analyse the real value (in cultural as well as economic terms) of they from the Commission, from the Member States or from
biodiversity and ecosystem services; such research should bring local and regional authorities;
4.9.2009 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 211/53

74. stresses the urgent need to conduct scientific research 2010, and perhaps even 2020; accordingly, any assessment of
programmes, particularly in the fields of natural and environ­ achievements after a two-year period will ascertain only how
mental sciences, in order to provide the knowledge needed to effectively such campaigns have been implemented;
achieve the objective of stemming the erosion of biodiversity and
highlights the importance of focusing skills training schemes and
scientific career development programmes (e.g. through Eur­ 77. notes that the assessment of biodiversity should not be
opean scholarships) on subjects related to biodiversity, in both based solely on the number of living species but should also take
the life sciences and social sciences; full account of how they interact with one another, the
complexity of the ecosystems and how they operate;
75. underlines the importance of educational campaigns, in
particular for pupils, students and young people generally, which 78. calls on environmental associations to be encouraged to put
seek to achieve genuine public awareness of these issues i.e. their knowledge to good use in the process of monitoring and
campaigns which cover all sections of society, problems and how reporting on changes in biodiversity and to pass this information
best to manage biodiversity. Such campaigns should use as their on to the local and regional authorities;
cornerstone the close proximity of local and regional authorities
to the citizen;
79. calls for the establishment of a major ‘Biodiversity
Observatory’ (which could form part of a beefed-up European
Monitoring Thematic Centre for Nature Conservation) as a continuation of
the approach employed for the present mid-term assessment. It
76. notes that the tangible results of a policy for conserving would be desirable for this observatory to be supported by
biodiversity should be viewed over the long term, well beyond observatories at national, regional and other sub-national levels.

Brussels, 18 June 2009

The President
of the Committee of the Regions
Luc VAN DEN BRANDE