Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

Ecosystem services and offsets in the EU biodiversity strategy

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Earlier this month, the European Commission published the European Union’s Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. It has received considerable comment in the press and on-line, in particular regarding the place taken by ecosystem services and the value of nature. BusinessGreen, EurActiv, the Ecosystem Marketplace and others have rejoiced in finding that the strategy explicitly mentions the incorporation of biodiversity and ecosystem services into decision-making through valuation, monitoring and reporting. While this is true, it must be made clear that most of the strategy actually focuses on setting biodiversity targets and developing (incl. funding) the corresponding monitoring and reporting schemes. Valuation issues are only mentioned in the strategy’s introductory section.

The document only makes a passing mention of offsets and PES schemes as mechanisms for involving the private sector in funding biodiversity conservation. As such, it is a bit of a stretch to say that the strategy endorses “species banking” (as did the Ecosystem Marketplace). In fact, it is strange that the key role of offsets in the Habitats directive (article 6.4) did not get mentioned in this context. The strategy does not mention the 2004 environmental liability directive which also includes offsets.

Targets set by the strategy include (1) the full implementation of the Birds (1979) and Habitats (1992) directives (i.e. improving the conservation status of twice the number of habitat types as are currently and 50% more for species), (2) maintaining and enhancing ecosystem services through the development of “green infrastructure” and the restoration of >15% of currently degraded ecosystems (no definition provided), (3) developing a adequate policy response to invasive species and (4) “stepping-up” the EU’s contribution averting global biodiversity loss (whatever that means apart from forking out aid…).

Interesting chapters in the document discuss interactions with existing policies and in particular the Common Agricultural Policy which will have to contribute to the first two targets : improving the conservation status of habitats and species and restoring degraded ecosystems. The forthcoming CAP will have considerable impact on biodiversity and Europe and a lot is certainly at play there. The document states that discussions are in progress for a framework directive aimed at preserving soil resources in the EU. That’s a lot of news to come…

Ecosystem services and the greening of the CAP

Friday, December 31st, 2010

The European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will soon be reformed. The European Commission has already made several propositions, summarized here and explained here (pdf).

In a general context of decreasing subsidies, the EU commission has outlined three contrasting scenarios for the post 2013 CAP. These scenarios variously mix direct payments, market-instruments and rural development schemes. Whichever scenario finally unfolds, direct payments will be (totally or in part) justified on the basis of environmental public goods (together with stronger eco-conditionality). This is the greening of the CAP!

Christian Deverre and Christine de Sainte Marie analysed this greening in a very interesting article (which is unfortunately only available in French). Although they refer a lot to current agricultural policy in Switzerland, their insight is very relevant to the EU.

C. Deverre and C. de Sainte Marie recognize that the greening of the CAP is only nascent and that the institutions that govern the farming sector are still built around 1960s modernization goals. They also anticipate two important consequences to further greening of the CAP:

  • The increasing need for a detailed assessment of the environmental public goods that farmers provide. The ecosystem service concept is well suited to framing these assessments and will no doubt be strengthened by the coming reform
  • The risk of further “off shoring” of environmental degradations caused by producing food for the European market in other countries (because greening production in Europe implies reducing production levels)
  • In Nagoya, Europe agreed to end, reduce or reform economic incentives that negatively impact biodiversity (including farming subsidies). The CAP reform is an important tool for facing up to this challenge. In this context, it appears clearly necessary to better characterize the effects of farming practices on ecosystem services, at different scales of analysis: from the parcel to the landscape, both in Europe and beyond.