The European Union got strongly admonished this month by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) after the release of a report that is more than a decade late and comes to disheartening conclusions. The EU is giving only 0.1% of its budget to nature protection, with drastic consequences. Due to the miniscule investment in protecting wildlife, more than half of European habitats and species are under threat of extinction.
With the EU putting in so little money for the protection of its animals and natural places, it is no wonder the results are so unfavorable for plants and animals. The likelihood that this wildlife will survive is a reflection of the 0.1% the EU is putting in for them.
Andreas Baumüller, from the WWF’s European Policy Office, says: “Each European citizen pays every year about 300 euro to the European Union, but just 30 cents are used to safeguard our natural heritage.”
As a result of the poor investment in conservation, 65% of habitats and 52% of species are in bad or unfavorable condition.
The report is “the most comprehensive survey of EU biodiversity ever undertaken,” according to the EU. It covers more than 1150 species and 200 habitats that are protected by EU law due to their vulnerable condition. However, the report is only the first assessment of the Union’s 17-year-old Habitats Directive.
The EU is more positive in its press release (it has to be, doesn’t it). It states that despite not being able to attain their previously-stated goal of stopping biodiversity loss by 2010, “some progress is being made.” They state that some habitats and species are starting to recover due to protection and conservation measures. Animals on the population rise include: brown bears, wolves, beavers, the Eurasian lynx, and otters. Others are on the rise as well, but most species and habitats are having more difficulty.
What are the main causes of the problems? What are the main problems for the future?
A change from traditional to more intensive, industrial agriculture looks to be the main cause of the biodiversity loss. Only 7% of habitats associated with agricultural areas are favorable, compared to 21% for other, “non-agricultural” areas. Other pressures are climate change and tourism, especially in coastal areas.
Another main problem is lack of information. Baumüller states: “Despite the legal obligation to gather information and take appropriate measures for the protection of the environment, in countries like Spain the status of nearly two thirds of habitats is still unknown.” The EU reports: “Overall, some 13% of regional habitat assessments and 27% of regional species assessments were reported as ‘unknown’. The number of ‘unknown’ classifications was particularly high for species found in southern Europe, with Cyprus, Greece, Spain and Portugal indicating ‘unknown’ for more than 50% of the species reported in their territories.”
In recent posts, I have written on several environmental strengths and successes in Europe (see: “Europe Says Financial Crisis Doesn’t Trump Climate Change”; “4 New Eco-Design Rules for the EU — Saving as Much Power as Austria and Sweden Use Annually”;and “7 Environmental Lessons from Living in Europe”). However, this is clearly a weak link that needs addressing. The EU needs to step up its wildlife conservation efforts considerably if it is going to maintain true biodiversity in Europe.
Image credit 1: ming mong via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image credit 2: sieber_werner via flickr under a Creative Commons license