EU falls short of targets to protect nature - agency

by Reuters
Monday, 19 October 2020 12:34 GMT

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Unsustainable farming, forestry and the sprawl of urbanisation are degrading the health of Europe's animals and natural habitats, the bloc's environment agency said, meaning that the European Union will miss key targets to protect biodiversity.

Most of Europe's protected habitats and species have a poor or bad conservation status, the EU environment agency (EEA) said in a report on Monday.

The EU had aimed to increase the amount of habitats and non-bird species with a good or improved conservation status by 100% and 50%, respectively, in 2020 compared with the 2001-2006 period.

But it is set to miss these goals by 12% for habitats and 2% for non-bird species, the EEA said. The EU also fell short of a goal to raise the amount of bird species with a good or improved population status by 2020.

"It shows very clearly that we are still losing our vital life support system," EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius said.

With the twin crises of climate change and wildlife loss accelerating, the EU, with countries including Canada and Britain, is attempting to build momentum ahead of a global summit on biodiversity in China next year, where nearly 200 countries will negotiate a new agreement on protecting nature.

The European Commission presented plans in May to halve chemical pesticide use and farm 25% of agricultural land organically by 2030 - which farming groups said could harm crop yields. EU countries are this week attempting to strike a deal on reforms which could make the bloc's farming policy greener.

Bright spots in recent years included an uptick in Europe's vulture populations, while agile frog numbers in Sweden rose amid wetland restorations.

Agriculture was the most frequently reported pressure on Europe's habitats and species, from intensified farming practices including pesticide use and irrigation.

Other threats include the spread of urban areas, excessive removal of old and dead trees from forests, hunting and climate change impacts like drought. (Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Gabriela Baczynska, William Maclean)

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