Saving Europe’s biodiversity needs action beyond the CAP


Climate, Energy & Sustainability

Picture of Mariya Gabriel
Mariya Gabriel

European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, European Young Leader (EYL40)

In a world where our environment and biodiversity are changing rapidly, we must be better prepared to tackle new challenges in food provision and food security. The EU is gradually losing its biodiversity. This is having devastating effects on the economy and on society, but the costs are rarely taken into account when setting economic and other EU policies. The European Parliament is aware of these challenges. Our objective is to stop biodiversity loss in the EU by 2020, to end – and as far as possible reverse – the degradation of ecosystem benefits, and to increase the EU’s contribution to ending global biodiversity loss.

Working with the agricultural sector is key to biodiversity conservation. Agriculture affects the management of half the EU’s territory and clearly has a strong effect on biodiversity. The new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) puts protection of the environment and tackling climate change at the heart of its 2014-2020 programme. The European Parliament fought for a greener CAP and under the new arrangements nearly one third of direct payments to farmers are related to “green measures”. They include identification of priority environmental areas, maintenance of permanent grassland and requirements on crop variety to prevent the spread of monocultural production. Such measures will help achieve one of the key objectives of the EU Biodiversity Strategy – maximising protected areas by biodiversity-related measures under the CAP.

The European Parliament is at the forefront of efforts to find innovative, efficient, realistic and consistent solutions

Member states can use the opportunities offered by a broad framework such as the new CAP to draw up plans for ecosystem preservation at national level. I believe member states should take additional steps, beyond those required by the CAP, to fully achieve EU biodiversity conservation objectives. Such steps could include increased financial support, detailed mapping and preservation of pastures, increasing the level of environmental knowledge among farmers and monitoring the results of CAP environmental measures.

It is also worth recalling that bees play an extremely important role in biodiversity and food security. Pollination by bees improves biodiversity by maintaining the genetic diversity of plants and the ecological balance. Around 84% of plant species and 76% of food production in Europe depend on pollination by bees. The value of pollination for European agriculture is estimated at €15bn a year, and worldwide it’s around €153bn. If bees disappear, much of the food we know will cease to exist and food security will be seriously jeopardised. Many fruits and vegetables would disappear including apples, strawberries and peaches. Our food would consist of self-pollinating crops such as maize, wheat and barley. That shows why we must pay special attention to bees and the beekeeping sector.

The EU is gradually losing its biodiversity

In recent years, the European Parliament has worked tirelessly to underline the dangers of decreasing bee numbers. The reasons why bee colonies are disappearing are complex, ranging from parasites and disease to pesticides, poor beekeeping and harmful agricultural practices. Member states should take determined action to halt the extinction of bee species and the decrease of bee colonies. European efforts to investigate the causes and promote innovative solutions must be intensified, in particular to help agriculture cope with food security challenges in the short, medium and long terms. Research and monitoring are crucial.

The European Parliament is at the forefront of efforts to find innovative, efficient, realistic and consistent solutions. We have been even more mobilised since the creation of the Working Group on Apiculture and Bee Health, which I have the pleasure to chair, within the Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development. This working group will facilitate an exchange of ideas between the European institutions, beekeepers and experts from member states in the search for a way to save the bees.

We have to be aware that biodiversity and species like bees that provide essential ecosystem services are important not only because of their intrinsic value. Biodiversity is vital for the conservation of an environment suitable for human life and for our food security. Responsible politicians and society as a whole have a duty to preserve and protect the ecosystem to avoid the risk of catastrophic changes.

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