The EU’s Biodiversity Strategy

Investing in nature’s protection for a healthy recovery from COVID-19

Article written by Abigail Mizzi – Executive, MEUSAC
Published in The Malta Independent – 08.06.2020

Now that we are slowly going back to the way of life we had prior to the peak of COVID-19, we have the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and create a better post-COVID reality. It is clear that before COVID-19, things were not working, environmentally-speaking. The environmental degradation we have come to witness around the world may be leading to more disease. Nature, when left untouched and when it’s not exploited, serves as a buffer between humans and disease. However, when there is an encroachment into natural ecosystems, disease spreads; in fact, in recent years deforestation has been linked to higher malaria infections as well as the outbreak of Ebola and Lyme disease. This can be explained with the fact that the loss of natural habitats exposes humans to previously untouched wildlife, bringing about the emergence of animal-to-human diseases.

As we continue losing and depleting our ecosystems, widespread disease can easily become the new norm. In the last 50 years alone, we have lost around 60% of our wildlife and species and at the same time the number of new infectious diseases has quadrupled. Therefore, the link between environment destruction and the rise of diseases is becoming undeniable and to an extent even worrying.

It is in this context, that the recent launch of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy became a step in the right direction.  It is a strategy committed to re-invest in nature once again, since by doing so we will be also safeguarding our health. Amid its contents, the strategy aims to see 30% of Europe’s land and seas protected by the establishment of protected lands and areas, by 2030. Moreover, in order to restore the wildlife and biodiversity that we lost so far, the EU intends to promote the use of organic farming as well as to reduce the use of harmful pesticides, since this can be harmful to certain species.

The EU’s ambitions do not stop there since to support the above-mentioned efforts, it will also undertake the planting of more than three billion trees by 2030. Considered as one of the most effective nature-based solutions, reforestation would mitigate the effects of the deforestation that has been ongoing in Europe, and throughout the world in the last decades.

It is indeed time to reinvest in nature but let us not forget that nature generates a lot of wealth and without it our economies will cease to function. In fact, half of the global Gross Domestic Product (an estimation of €40 trillion) depends on nature’s services.  Therefore, in order to reap the benefits and services that nature offers us, such as the food we are able to eat every day, it is our duty to also give back and halt the ongoing destruction. To assist such reinvestment and conservation efforts, the EU will provide €20 billion every year in a bid to support Member States in caring for and protecting our wild-life and natural capital. These initiatives can also help generate new green jobs which are becoming increasingly important in the context of the climate crisis we are witnessing.

This is the time to re-evaluate our ways of living and make sure our post-COVID-19 routine is assisting, rather than being a detriment to nature.  The intention and efforts are clearly there, however it is time to put them into action by simply choosing local produce, commute in a more sustainable manner, limit our waste and excess use of resources as well as teaching younger generations the joys of tree-planting or maintaining a small backyard or balcony garden (if space permits). Big strategies provide direction but ultimately it boils down to small individual efforts that translate strategies into reality.

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