Panorama of Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug) and Rotterdam skyline illuminated at night. Rotterdam, Netherlands © Dmitry Rukhlenko for Shutterstock (ID: 721864855)

Nature movement calls for European leadership in establishing global biodiversity targets

In October 2020, the world’s governments meet for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP15) in China to agree on new commitments for protecting and restoring biodiversity. This should result in a Biodiversity Agreement similar to the Paris Climate Agreement. From 1-3 July, hundreds of European conservation organisations will convene in Rotterdam to influence the conversation going into China in a meaningful way. 

Header photo: Panorama of Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug) and Rotterdam skyline illuminated at night. Rotterdam, Netherlands © Dmitry Rukhlenko for Shutterstock (ID: 721864855)

‘This IUCN Regional Conservation Forum happens at a crucial time, with one million species at the risk of extinction‘, says Luc Bas, European director for IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). “We need European leadership now to reach a strong, ambitious and scientifically sound agreement to halt biodiversity loss, both in Europe and globally.” The Forum will provide solutions and clear messages to decision makers on the way forward.

Biodiversity equally important as climate

Recently, the UN-affiliated research panel IPBES warned the world that the rapid decline in species is seriously threatening humanity’s future. ‘This IPBES report made it abundantly clear to the world what conservationists have known for years: that biodiversity is just as much a prerequisite for our survival on this planet as a stable climate’, says Bas. ‘It is now time to move this awareness into action: the upcoming year will be critical to turn the tide.’ 

To do list for European government leaders

The IUCN Regional Conservation Forum, held from 1-3 July in Rotterdam, is a first step to setting conservation and sustainable development priorities and mobilizing action to reach them. ‘All the science and know-how on biodiversity that is available across Europe will come together in Rotterdam’, says Bas. In total, more than 375 nature organisations and thousands scientists from 58 European countries are invited to the conference. ‘This is our opportunity to provide our European government leaders with a to do list they can bring with them in the conversations going into China.’

Reducing ecological footprint

That to do list will include Europe reducing its ecological footprint abroad. At the moment, the European economy is one of the major drivers behind worldwide biodiversity loss. On an annual basis, Europe imports 40 million ton of soy, mainly for animal feed. Only 13 percent of the soy used in Europe is deforestation-free. ‘That means that for the bulk of the soy production it is likely that large areas are deforested’, says Bas. ‘These unsustainable practices need to change rapidly.’

Within European borders

Europe should also invest in protecting biodiversity within its borders. By far, there is most to gain in revising agricultural practices, says Bas. ‘We have to shift to agriculture that works together with nature rather than depleting it. Europe can set an example in this.’

Nature offers solutions for climate challenges

Investing in nature can also help reach the targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement. In fact, protecting forests is the most cost efficient way to prevent global warming. ‘Natural climate solutions can account for 37 percent of the emission reductions needed between 2020-2030’, says Bas. 

Turning point at global convention in China (2020)

However, it’s not just Europe that needs to change its policies and practices: countering the trend of biodiversity loss requires a global effort, Bas stresses. The turning point is expected in October 2020 in Kunming, China, where world leaders will have to commit to ambitious and binding targets that will guarantee the future of our planet. ‘Europe has the opportunity to set the right example and strive for an ambitious agenda. We hope that this Rotterdam congress will ensure that that message comes across.’