Nature must be at the heart of the post-Covid-19 recovery

Biodiversity strategy must herald transformative change.

An opinion by Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg and Grace O’Sullivan, Greens/EFA MEPs.

Biodiversity is all around us. Even for those restricted to home in these trying and sad times, a cursory look around shows a world teeming with life. Sadly we’ve lost so much biodiversity throughout the world over recent decades, but on this momentous week, as we take in the implications of the 2030 Strategy, and at the same time continue our work to raise awareness of the land and marine biodiversity around us and enhance a public understanding that each and every one of us are stakeholders, we must not let up in our dedication. 

With International Day for Biological Diversity on Friday (May 22nd), biodiversity has been to the forefront of Europe-wide news this week. As COVID-19 has brought the frenetic pace and clamour of daily life to a dramatic halt, public discourse on the topic of biodiversity has been animated, and a corresponding surge in awareness of the living world around us has been in evidence. 

Our recent weeks and months of work came to something of an apex this week, as we approached the Commission launch of the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy and battled to ensure the final draft would not be a watered-down version of what has the potential to create transformative change. 

It was in evidence too, in the early pages of the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy document, where the emotive opening paragraphs acknowledged the need for nature in our lives; the need for urgent action. 

With biodiversity under significant strain from loss of species and habitat, water pollution, climate change and other factors, the strategy is a blueprint for action. We are welcoming of the positive thrust of much of its content, but there will be no let up in our efforts, which will look forward to the ongoing project of ensuring that legally binding regulations and directives into the future, will be led by social and ecological concerns and not skewed by the misguided agendas of more commercially-led interests. 

We must stay focused on reaching the ambitions that are essential in the ongoing global efforts to halt the decline of marine and land-based biodiversity.

In specific areas we must continue our work and demand Commission support in seeing an increase in protected areas to at least 30% of Member States’ territory, with 10% strictly protected. A Nature Restoration plan must be urgently put in place, with legally binding targets to restore at least 30% of Europe’s ecosystems, through a massive restoration of peatlands, wetlands, marine habitats, forests and other areas.

The EU must drive real change in how we farm and fish. Areas that should be tackled include restricting the use of pesticides and increasing a move towards more widespread organic agriculture production and the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework directive. 

European Member States should see better enforcement of habitat and species protection directives and increased funding in the area of nature protection. 

In urban areas we believe the European Green Deal should see the greening of our cityscapes. 

In this week of celebration and action around our rich and diverse biological heritage, we are reminded of our interconnectedness with the world around us. Biodiversity was under severe threat in pre-COVID times, and humankind’s relationship with nature was a toxic marriage. It’s time to mend our ways, to rebuild, and to respond to public sentiment with political action and leadership heralding a new way of living in a safe, healing and nurturing way, on our fragile, but potentially resilient planet.