Thursday, 12 February 2009

IUCN Consider Successor to Biodiversity 2010 Target

The BES Policy Team yesterday attended an international conference in Brussels, to explore the successor to the target to 'halt biodiversity loss by 2010'. Organised by Countdown 2010, the meeting brought together representatives from the European Parliament, NGOs, learned societies, European agencies and academics to consider whether the 2010 target would be reached, including how to build on successes and mitigate potential failures in policy.

Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for the Environment, was frank in acknowledging that the target would not be met. However, speakers and participants recognised that the existence of a target has spurred on the development of policy, and led to actions which would not otherwise have occurred. Developing a successor to the target was therefore acknowledged as a vital next step.

The 2010 biodiversity target 'had teeth'; this was the prevailing view of the audience. The Birds and Habitats Directives had provided core, useful components to allow member states to take steps towards addressing biodiversity loss. The Natura 2000 network should also be recognised as taking steps towards success. However, there was general recognition that more needed to be done, and that a successor to the target should be far broader.

Gathered from discussion during the day, participants were broadly calling for the target to possess the following, post-2010:

  • a broader focus, incorporating ecosystem services and encouraging an ecosystem-wide approach to biodiversity conservation.
  • to include sub-targets to assess progress on the way to achieving the overall goal by 2020 or 2025.
  • to take into account the unique conservation needs, incredible biodiversity, and incredible challenges, faced by the Overseas Territories.
  • a recognition that EU-wide policy is important, but that implementation should be sensitive to local needs and conditions.
To make any target a success, broad societal change would be necessary, not least the shift to a 'Green New Deal'; a change to the economic and policy framework underlying society, a re-think of GDP and the development of an economic successor to this tool which measures natural capital. Integration of land-use for multiple needs will be absolutely vital. Education of the public, raising the profile of biodiversity to public consciousness in the same way as climate change over recent years, will also be integral to success. Perhaps to facilitate this there should be a change in terminology. Is 'biodiversity' too sterile, too devoid of any 'spiritual significance' - is it too 'scientific'. Do we need to shift to present the target as 'halting declines in life on earth'?

Ladislav Miko, Director of 'Protecting the Natural Environment' at DG Environment, stressed that although the European Commission had its own ideas about the successor to the 2010 target, the target would be developed through stakeholder engagement. He called on NGOs, individual ecologists, economists and others, to participate in the development of the target over the coming months. It was hoped that a successor to the target could be introduced in the first half of 2010.

The BES is working with the IEEM to deliver a reception in the UK parliament in October 2009, exploring the 2010 biodiversity target, and successor, from a UK perspective. If you would like more information, please contact Policy@BritishEcologicalSociety.org.