We need nature, from beech fronds to brown bears, from streams to single-celled organisms, and its conservation is our future. Nature feeds us, quenches our thirst and allows us to breathe, and not only that, it contributes in a decisive way to our psychophysical balance. The Covid-19 pandemic, the result of our short-sighted abuse of ecosystems, has made this need even clearer, highlighting the link between our health and that of natural environments. Protecting biodiversity and restoring damaged ecosystems is therefore necessary to prevent future pandemics and try to minimise the effects of climate change. The EU has drawn up a plan to make the economy of the Old Continent sustainable, the European Green Deal.
The current network of protected areas has proved insufficient to safeguard biodiversity, so it is planned to expand it and to protect at least 30% of the land surface and 30% of the sea surface in the EU. At present, only 3% of the land and less than 1% of marine areas are strictly protected in the EU. Among the areas in need of special protection are the primary and old forests that still survive in Europe, among the most biodiversity-rich ecosystems and which contribute the most to carbon sequestration. The EU has urged States to plant 3 billion new trees by 2030. This goal will not only support biodiversity and help achieve climate targets, but will also create job opportunities related to planting and tree care. Reforestation is particularly useful in cities, which are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Chemical agriculture is one of the main causes of biodiversity decline, and the transition to sustainable agricultural practices must therefore be supported and encouraged. Improving the conditions and diversity of agroecosystems will increase the resilience of the sector to climate change and socio-economic shocks, while creating new jobs. The EU calls for 25% of EU agricultural land to be farmed organically by 2030. In addition, a 50% reduction in chemical pesticides is planned to halt the alarming decline in birds and pollinating insects, on which the health of ecosystems and our food security depends to a large extent. Finally, 10% of farmland will be kept intact (or otherwise present a high degree of landscape diversity) to provide space and shelter for wild plants and animals.
Watercourses are among the environments on which man has had the greatest impact, plundered them and fractionated them with dams and barriers, profoundly altering their composition. These actions have had a negative impact both on biodiversity and on population centres, which are more exposed to flooding. The new strategy envisages restoring the free flow of at least 25,000 kilometres of watercourses by the end of the decade, through the removal of barriers, which prevent the passage of migratory fish, and the restoration of floodplains and wetlands.
Green spaces in urban and peri-urban areas are essential to reduce pollution levels and to ensure our physical and mental well-being. To bring nature back into cities, the Commission calls on European cities with at least 20,000 inhabitants to develop ambitious urban green development plans by the end of 2021. Cities should also help to improve connections between green spaces, eliminate the use of pesticides, limit excessive mowing of urban green spaces and other practices harmful to biodiversity.
Industrial fishing has disrupted marine ecosystems and drastically decimated the populations of many species. It is therefore necessary to reverse this trend before fish stocks collapse and the most sensitive species become extinct. Member States will have to implement plans to reduce the impact of their maritime activities and protect marine ecosystems by 2021.
Pollution is a key factor in biodiversity loss and has a serious impact on our health. A large number of species, the list of which is constantly being updated, are threatened by pesticides, chemicals, waste water and waste. The EU strategy is to drastically reduce pollution in the air, water and soil. For example, a reduction in fertiliser use of at least 20% is planned.
The objectives set by the new strategy are undoubtedly positive, but in order for individual nations to comply with them, they must be made binding.
While waiting for actions by governments, we all can do our part in this vital transition to a green economy. As consumers, we have the power to choose eco friendly products and adopt a green lifestyle, which will accelerate the process.
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