Thursday, July 7

The tree huggers were right

We take bad care of the planet. We are punishing its biodiversity, which is something as simple and as important as the variety of life that surrounds us. The number of species threatened with extinction is now greater than at any time in human history.

That is why it is good news that the European Parliament has approved the report on the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 for which I have been responsible on behalf of the European liberal group. After more than a year had passed since the Commission’s presentation and after complex and difficult negotiations, it came forward by a large majority (515 votes in favor, 90 against and 86 abstentions).

I am pleased to have overcome the difficulties, while it is difficult for me to understand that there is so much resistance and, in general, that the initiatives to halt the ecosystem deterioration of the planet are the story of failure. The United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020 ended with dire results. And in the EU, the previous Biodiversity Strategy for 2020 has ended, according to the European Environment Agency, with an alarming rate of biodiversity loss. Of the thirteen goals for 2020, only two have been met: designating marine protected areas and terrestrial protected areas.

ANDl 60% of the species are in an unfavorable state of conservation; 77% of habitats, 32% of farmland birds and 39% of grassland butterflies have declined, according to data from the same agency. Who can not find these data alarming? Taking into account everything we know about the impact of climate change and the repercussions of pollution on the environment and health, and the hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in Europe each year in which these factors count, how is it possible that it has been so difficult to carry out a new strategy that, trying to avoid past mistakes, seeks to stop the destruction of our natural environment?

In the midst of the worst recent global health, social and economic crisis, I confess that I thought it would be easier to embrace the concept of one health of which the World Health Organization has spoken for years, a concept as elementary as it is unappealable: it is impossible to have healthy citizens on a sick planet. It shouldn’t be difficult to bear the consequences of continuing to destroy tropical forests, a veritable wall of protection that prevents viruses like Covid-19 from jumping from wildlife to humans. 70% Of emerging diseases (such as Ebola, Zika, or Nipah encephalitis) and almost all known pandemics, such as influenza and HIV / AIDS, are zoonotic, they can be transmitted between animals and humans. Preventing outbreaks is infinitely cheaper than facing a pandemic like the one we are still experiencing.

An old view persists that understands that nature protection activities should be secondary. Let us remember that, not so long ago, the attempts of people and groups who wanted to include the protection of the natural environment and the sustainable use of resources on political agendas were ridiculed with mocking labels such as hug trees (tree huggers) to discredit their arguments.

Well, now we can say that hug trees They were right: the conviction is spreading that our natural capital is not a good that we can acquire and import from third countries, it is our survival system. Ecosystems are not movable from one country to another, nor are the services provided by their biological diversity, which is the insurance policy for the survival of our species.

This diversity can be conserved and managed in a sustainable way, and is essential to provide food, energy and medicine, to regulate the climate and the quality of water and air.

The collapse of the nature is the collapse of the economy and society; the nature depends on half of world GDP (40 trillion euros), and as species are degraded or destroyed, their ability to continue providing these services diminishes.

This new European strategy is our shield and roadmap to face the double crisis of biodiversity and climate change: two sides of the same coin that require investment and political commitment. To avoid the failures of the past, the strategy proposes binding and concrete targets, such as converting at least 30% of Europe’s land area and 30% of Europe’s sea area into effectively managed protected areas, while ensuring strict protection of the 10 % of areas with high biodiversity and climate value.

A new governance framework and a wide-ranging EU Nature Recovery Plan are proposed, which, after an impact assessment, are expected to draw up a proposal for a legal framework to recover degraded ecosystems, especially those richest in carbon. It is about improving the implementation of the Habitats Directives and increasing regional and local capacities for control and monitoring. To this end, the Strategy will unlock at least € 20 billion a year.

It is suicidal to despise nature, the livelihood that has protected us for thousands of years. years. We are part of that wealth, and we have the ability to protect or destroy it.

It is time to make peace with nature, and the purpose of the new Biodiversity Strategy to plant 3 billion trees in the next ten years is a symbolic way to start doing it. Hopefully among the results of this strategy there will also be 3,000 million new hug trees willing to embrace and defend life.