MEPs say EU needs legally binding targets to protect nature

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The European Union needs legally binding measures to protect nature and biodiversity, the European Parliament said on Wednesday, warning that previous voluntary plans have failed to deliver.

The EU’s executive Commission last year published a plan to protect biodiversity, and has set out goals to halve the use of chemical pesticides, cut fertiliser use by 20% and expand protected areas of land and sea by 2030.

The European Parliament on Wednesday approved a report calling for the targets to be fixed in law and backed up by measures to enforce them.

“We have a planetary crisis going on right now, not only in the European Union, of climate and biodiversity,” said Spanish lawmaker Cesar Luena, who wrote the report.

The EU has put its climate change targets in law, but not yet those to protect nature.

The latest EU biodiversity strategy is the bloc’s third. Previous plans have failed to stop unsustainable farming, forestry and the sprawl of urbanisation from degrading natural habitats.

Key indicators of nature’s health are flashing red. Most of Europe’s protected habitats and species have a poor or bad conservation status, while a third of bee and butterfly species have declining populations.

Fixing the targets in law could be difficult. EU laws need approval from a majority of EU member states and Parliament, and the biodiversity targets have already proved contentious in EU negotiations on farming subsidies, with member states and Parliament at odds over whether to embed them in the subsidy rules.

Brussels also wants to build momentum ahead of a global summit on biodiversity in China in October, where nearly 200 countries will negotiate a new agreement to protect nature.

The EU has rallied behind scientists’ recommendations that to halt the decline of nature, 30% of the planet should be safeguarded through protected areas and conservation. Parliament said the EU should push to make that pledge legally binding. 

Photo: EC Audiovisual Service

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