Biodiversity loss and climate change: the need for an ecosystem approach


Source: European Environment Agency (EEA)

Biodiversity loss and climate change are now a part of our lives. Both are rooted in overexploitation of natural resources. Both require a coherent policy response. The Syracuse Charter and the Athens Conference underline the strong political commitment to take action. To ensure our society and economy have a healthy future, we need a way to assess our impacts on the natural world. The European Environment Agency's European Ecosystem Assessment (EURECA) responds to that need.

Last week was a turning point for biodiversity policy discussions. Two crucial meetings — the G8 environment meeting in Syracuse, Italy, and the high-level conference in Athens, Greece, organised by the European Commission — recognised the close links between climate change and biodiversity loss and the fact that neither can be solved without addressing the other. An integrated approach, aimed at greening our economy was called for. 

'Syracuse and Athens confirm that the political will to halt biodiversity loss is now here. The solutions must be embedded across the political sphere from climate change to the economy. We need to strengthen our knowledge of what biodiversity means to us, and the services and benefits we get from the natural world. The EEA will fill some of today's gaps in knowledge with EURECA', said Professor McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA.

Ecosystems provide many services to human society, including carbon storage and climate regulation and water flows. Tackling climate change means using natural resources sustainably to maintain ecosystem services. Numerous countries have launched greening initiatives with this in mind. And many governments responding to the current financial crisis have put greening the economy at the centre of their stimulus packages.

What is EURECA?
The EEA launched the EURECA (European Ecosystem Assessment) initiative to contribute to the follow-up process of the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. EURECA will address the stocks, flows and value of selected ecosystem goods and services using a variety of policy-relevant scenarios. The EEA will deliver the first assessments in 2011, with more following in subsequent years.

EURECA will give particular attention to improving our knowledge of how ecosystems function, the services they provide, involving stakeholders and developing tools for political decision-making in Europe. It will provide a platform for people to exchange knowledge and bring national assessments together at a European level.

EURECA timeline
The first phase of EURECA was completed at the end of 2008. There will be regular updates of the EURECA findings throughout 2009–2013. The aim will be to support and influence a range of important international processes. Building on the SEBI (Streamlining European Biodiversity Indicators) work assessing the 2010 biodiversity target at Convention of Biological Diversity COP10 and the setting of new European targets, EURECA will contribute to the follow-up to the global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and 'Rio +20' in 2012.

Specifically for the EU, EURECA will contribute to the review of the 6th Environment Action Programme and progress reports on the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Action Plan, together with the SEBI indicators.

EURECA's long-term perspective and flexible approach will allow updates on the state of Europe's ecosystems to be fed into the European Union's dynamic policy agenda, which will face many new challenges in the coming years, including globalisation, climate change, migration, security of natural resources and demographic changes.

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