Time is up: EU misses 2020 biodiversity targets by a long shot, EEA report shows

Posted on October, 19 2020

Despite significant efforts undertaken, biodiversity continues its rapid decline across the EU, finds a new report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) today.
The State of Nature in the EU report officially confirms that Europe is nowhere near to meeting the key targets of its 2020 Biodiversity Strategy as the deadline looms. The report identifies unsustainable farming and forestry, urban sprawl and pollution as the key pressures causing the drastic decline in Europe’s biodiversity [1]. 

The EEA report includes some alarming findings on species loss, and confirms the trend of the decline accelerating since the last assessment five years ago. A  devastating 81% of habitats now have an ‘poor’ or ‘bad’ status, with more than 1/3 continuing to deteriorate at EU level. For species, over 60% have a ‘poor’ or ‘bad’ status - only 6% are showing improving trends while 1/3 are still deteriorating. Fish species are faring worse of all, with 38% of them in ‘bad’ conservation status, and 50% of fishes and amphibians deteriorating. The report specifically emphasises the negative impact of intensive agriculture, with farmland birds and pollinator habitats being particularly affected.

With its assessment, the agency issues an urgent call for Member States to step up their action to implement existing EU nature laws and environmental regulations, including the availability of sufficient financial and human resources to ensure effective nature protection. At EU level, the EEA calls for tremendous efforts to be undertaken to address the underlying drivers of nature loss by turning the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) into effective tools for protecting biodiversity.

“This report drives home quite how urgent action has become to save what’s left of Europe’s nature,” said Sabien Leemans, Senior Policy Officer for Biodiversity at the WWF European Policy Office. “After the failure to meet the 2020 deadline, the Commission has recently presented its 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, with ambitious targets for nature conservation and restoration. This Strategy could be a real game-changer, but only if Member States now get behind it and focus on fully implementing the necessary measures rapidly. The science is clear: we’ve run out of time for procrastination! ”

“There are no real surprises here: We have known about the devastating effects of industrial agriculture and unsustainable forestry for a long time,” added Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer for Agriculture at the WWF European Policy Office. “In its Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission laid out important targets to drive the necessary transformation, and these targets are like lighthouses: they tell us where we need to go. But the Farm to Fork targets alone are not enough, drastic changes are needed in the EU farming policy too. MEPs will vote on the future of CAP this week, and they must put their weight behind a reorientation of the policy, halting harmful subsidies and using that money for rewarding farmers who adopt climate and nature-friendly practices.”

Claire Baffert, Senior Water Policy Officer at the WWF European Policy Office said, “Now that the Water Framework Directive is here to stay, its rigorous implementation and enforcement is more urgent than ever considering the EEA's catastrophic findings on freshwater species. Halting river fragmentation, and stepping up efforts to protect and restore freshwater ecosystems need to be absolute priorities for Member States and EU institutions."

Alexandre Cornet, Ocean Policy Officer at the WWF European Policy Office said, “For far too long, overfishing, bycatch and destructive harvesting methods have been cited as driving forces behind the deterioration of our marine environment. Alongside better implementation of the sustainability rules embedded in the Common Fisheries Policy, the key to restoring our marine biodiversity remains protected areas, which offer sanctuaries to threatened species and habitats. It is imperative that the EU and its Member States deliver effective protection for at least 30% of our seas, an objective whose significance for nature restoration is recognised by the Biodiversity Strategy.”

This coming week will see a number of critical decisions taking place at EU level. Not only will EU ministers and the European Parliament adopt their respective positions on the future of the CAP, but in addition, Environment Ministers will adopt conclusions on the 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy. 

WWF is urging Member States and MEPs to listen to the overwhelming scientific evidence by reorienting the CAP to support nature-friendly farming, and for ministers to fully endorse the EU Biodiversity Strategy and its commitments.  

Notes to the editor
[1] In particular, the EEA report measured progress towards targets 1 (“100% more habitats and 50% more species assessments with favourable or improved conservation status”) and 3 (“Maximise agricultural areas covered by biodiversity-related measures under the CAP; improve forestry”) of the biodiversity strategy are missed
Unsustainable farming is one of the key pressures causing the drastic decline in Europe’s biodiversity.
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