Healthy ecosystems are crucial for our health, our ability to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis, and our wellbeing, but they are in drastic decline all over the world. The EEB works to halt the mass extinction of species, bend the curve of biodiversity loss and prevent the collapse of ecosystems that are not only nice-to-have but essential for our own survival.
Biodiversity and the health of ecosystems that support human life are in drastic decline. Industrial farming and forestry, urban sprawl, and pollution are the top pressures on Europe’s biodiversity, threatening the survival of thousands of animal species and habitats. These threats are compounded by alterations to rivers and lakes, such as dams and water abstraction, invasive alien species, and the climate crisis.
As a result, there are 420 million fewer birds than 30 years ago and two-thirds of European wetlands have been lost over the last 100 years. Once common flowers, birds, butterflies, amphibians and reptiles are getting rarer by the day and pollinators across Europe are in vast rapid decline. Globally, one million animal and plant species are threatened by extinction. Once a species is extinct, it is gone for good which is a problem in itself but has even wider implications. Each species and its ecosystem play a crucial role in regulating the climate, pollinating our food and protecting us against the emergence of zoonotic diseases amongst other things.
Nature is not a detached commodity that we can use and exploit until depleted. Our society is deeply and fundamentally interconnected with – and dependent on – healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Without this, there is no economy, no food, no health, and no society.
To defend Europe’s precious nature, the largest network of protected natural areas in the world has been established under EU nature laws. Natura 2000 currently covers 18% of the EU’s land and 10% of the EU’s seas. EU governments must use these vital protections to their full potential and implement and enforce them fully. Under the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the European Commission, the European Parliament and national governments have all committed to ensure that 30% of the EU’s land and sea area is adequately protected by 2030, including through strict protection on 10% of the EU’s land and sea area.
Due to the extent of nature destruction, only protecting nature is no longer enough. We therefore need to also bring back biodiversity and healthy ecosystems through nature restoration. The EU is currently developing a new Nature Restoration Law that will set legally binding targets to restore ecosystems that are important for biodiversity and climate such as peatlands, floodplains, grasslands or rivers. It is essential that this law is robust and ambitious and is agreed in a timely way so that the urgently needed restoration can happen at scale across the EU.
Transformative system change
Safeguarding the health and resilience of Europe’s nature requires fundamental changes to the way we produce and consume food, manage water, use forests, and build cities. To this end, nature protection needs to be properly integrated across EU policies and budgets. These efforts need to be coupled with better implementation and enforcement of nature and environmental laws and require a coordinated approach to tackle the drivers of the triple biodiversity, pollution and climate crisis.
Cover photo credit: Wild Wonders of Europe – Mark Hamblin
of habitats protected in the EU are threatened, declining or depleted
of EU land is protected by EU nature laws