4 May 2011 | The European Commission on Tuesday approved a new strategy for reversing biodiversity loss by 2020, in part by recognizing the economic value of nature’s services. The new strategy lays the groundwork for species banking across the European Union, but must first be approved by the European Council.
“Incentives will be provided to attract private sector investment in green infrastructure, and the potential of biodiversity offsets will be looked into as a way of achieving a ‘no net loss’ approach,” the text says.
“No net loss” is a cornerstone of biodiversity banking. It means that any new development that disrupts certain habitat or wetlands must offset that damage by restoring or rescuing similar systems nearby, resulting no net loss of biodiversity or wetlands.
The new strategy marks a shift from earlier EU commitments, as it now focuses on ecosystem services as well as biodiversity and refers to positive restoration, and not just to halting loss. It also goes beyond traditional conservation actions to embrace biodiversity outside of protected areas.
It is structured around six targets, the first two of which focus directly on biodiversity objectives for 2020. The first target aims to maintain and restore ecosystem services within protected areas, while the second target aims to do the same outside of protected areas by “establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15 % of degraded ecosystems”, in accordance with the so-called Aichii Targets that were agreed to at the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan.
The Aichii Targets represent one of two mandates that the new strategy is designed to fulfill. The other is the biodiversity target adopted by EU heads of state in March, 2010. It calls for “Halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restoring them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.”
The strategy also outlines three concrete actions to be taken in support of target two:
Improve knowledge of ecosystems and their services in the EU
- Member States, with the assistance of the Commission, will map and assess the state of ecosystems and their services in their national territory by 2014, assess the economic value of such services, and promote the integration of these values into accounting and reporting systems at EU and national level by 2020.
Set priorities to restore and promote the use of green infrastructure
- By 2014, Member States, with the assistance of the Commission, will develop a strategic framework to set priorities for ecosystem restoration at sub-national, national and EU level.
- The Commission will develop a Green Infrastructure Strategy by 2012 to promote the deployment of green infrastructure in the EU in urban and rural areas, including through incentives to encourage up-front investments in green infrastructure projects and the maintenance of ecosystem services, for example through better targeted use of EU funding streams and Public Private Partnerships.
Ensure no net loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services
- In collaboration with the Member States, the Commission will develop a methodology for assessing the impact of EU funded projects, plans and programmes on biodiversity by 2014.
- The Commission will carry out further work with a view to proposing by 2015 an initiative to ensure there is no net loss of ecosystems and their services (e.g. through compensation or offsetting schemes).
The new strategy builds on the first draft of the atlas of ecosystem services, which the Commission’s Joint Research Centre published in March, as well as the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) June, 2010, baseline for European biodiversity, which concluded that most of the Continent’s living ecosystems no longer provided ecosystem services such as the filtering of water, the pollination of crops, and flood control.