Communication of the European Commission to the Council and to the Parliament on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy

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Courtesy of European Commission, Environment DG

INTRODUCTION

1. Biological diversity (biodiversity) is essential to maintain life on earth and has important social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic values. In addition to its intrinsic value biodiversity determines our resilience to changing circumstances. Without adequate biodiversity, events such as climate change and pest infestations are more likely to have catastrophic effects. It is essential for maintaining the long term viability of agriculture and fisheries for food production. Biodiversity constitutes the basis for the development of many industrial processes and the
production of new medicines. Finally, biodiversity often provides solutions to existing problems of pollution and disease.

2. It is estimated in UNEP’s Global Biodiversity Assessment that, on a global level, biodiversity is decreasing at a faster rate now than at any other time in the past. The situation in Europe is also a cause for concern. The rich biodiversity of the European Union has been subject to slow changes over the centuries, due to the impact of human activities. The scale of this impact has accelerated dramatically in the last few decades. The Assessment by UNEP confirms that in some European countries up to 24% of species of certain groups such as butterflies, birds and mammals are now
nationally extinct.

3. The reasons for this decline in biodiversity in Europe mean that it is likely to accelerate unless action is taken. The European Environmental Agency states in its “Dobris Assessment” that “the decline of Europe’s biodiversity in many regions derives mainly from highly intensive, partially industrial forms of agricultural and silvicultural land use; from an increased fragmentation of remaining natural habitats by infrastructure and urbanisation and the exposure to mass tourism as well as pollution of water and air. Given the projected growth in economic activity, the rate of loss of biodiversity is far more likely to increase than stabilise”.

4. In spite of past efforts by the Community and its Member States to address the problem of biodiversity reduction or loss, existing measures are insufficient to reverse present trends. It is therefore both essential and urgent for the Community to develop a strategy and take action towards the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

5. The global scale of biodiversity reduction or losses and the interdependence of different species and eco-systems across national borders demands concerted international action. The framework for this action is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The European Community ratified the CBD on 21 December 1993. The CBD pursues three objectives, namely the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources. Biodiversity is defined in the CBD as “the variability among living organisms from all sources, including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of eco-systems”.

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