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Europe's time: How not to waste it?

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It is a historic moment for Europe. That is how the European Commission entitled the list of proposed measures to restore the economy of the European Union estimated at a record amount of 750 billion euros, with 500 billion being allocated free of charge as grants and another 250 billion – as loans. The EU member states should approve the plan of the European Commission in order to «contribute to a better future for a new generation».

According to the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, «Efficient approval of the plan will be a clear sign of European unity, our solidarity and common priorities». A significant part of the recovery measures is aimed at implementing the «Green Deal», a phased transition to climate neutrality of the EU countries. About 20 billion euros will be allocated to co-finance the existing InvestEU program aimed at supporting the development of sustainable energy technologies, including carbon capture and storage projects.

One of the most promising projects in this field is currently being implemented in the Netherlands in the Rhine–Meuse delta, which is of crucial importance for European and international shipping. The Smart Delta Resources Consortium has launched a campaign to assess all aspects of the carbon capture and storage systems construction for their subsequent reuse. It is planned that the consortium will be capturing 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year starting from 2023 with a subsequent increase to 6.5 million tons in 2030, which will reduce the total share of emissions in the region by 30%.

One of the consortium members is the Zeeland refinery (a joint venture of TOTAL and LUKOIL that works with Europe's largest integrated refinery Total Antwerp Refinery). This Dutch plant is one of the industry leaders in climate neutrality. Digital optimization system for the processing of middle distillates (which includes marine fuel that complies with the strict requirements of IMO 2020 that have recently entered into force), as well as the recently upgraded and one of the largest hydrocracking facilities in Europe are installed at the plant.

According to Leonid Fedun, Vice President for Strategic Development of LUKOIL, the company is European and, consequently, feels an obligation to comply with current trends, including climate trends that define the market today.

At the same time, according to Fedun, climate neutrality in Europe will be achieved only by 2065, and in order to achieve it the global harmonization of regulatory approaches of all parties to the Paris Agreement is important.

The measures proposed by the European Commission to support the economies of member states may become a significant step along this path, as its first stage will be the development and internal coordination of each member state reorganization plans in the energy sector and in the economy field.

Using existing breakthrough projects in the field of climate neutrality as the best industry practices for the entire region may help shorten the time needed to implement support measures as well as become an instrument for a dialogue within supranational organizations and international agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

Biodiversity

How to preserve #Biodiversity - EU policy

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One million species are threatened with extinction globally. Find out what the EU is doing to preserve biodiversity.
A nearly extinct Iberian lynx, Lynx pardinus, standing on a rockA nearly extinct Iberian lynx 

In order to preserve endangered species, the EU wants to improve and preserve biodiversity on the continent.

In January, Parliament called for an ambitious EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy to address the main drivers of biodiversity loss, and set legally binding targets, including conservation of at least 30% of natural areas and 10% of the long-term budget devoted to biodiversity

In response, and as part of the Green Deal, the European Commission presented the new 2030 strategy in May 2020.

MEP chair Pascal Canfin, chair of Parliament's environment committee, welcomed the commitment to cut pesticide use with 50% and for 25% of farm products to be organic by 2030 as well as the 30% conservation target, but said the strategies must be transformed into EU law and implemented.

Find out more about the importance of biodiversity.

What has been done to safeguard biodiversity and endangered species in Europe?

EU efforts to improve biodiversity are ongoing under the 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, which was introduced in 2010.

The EU's 2020 Biodiversity Strategy

  • The Habitats Directive ensures the conservation of a wide range of rare, threatened or endemic animal and plant species, including some 200 rare and characteristic habitat types
  • Natura 2000 is the largest network of protected areas in the world, with core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, and rare natural habitat types
  • The EU Pollinator’s Initiative aims to address the decline of pollinators in the EU and contribute to global conservation efforts, focusing on improving knowledge of the decline, tackling the causes and raising awareness

Additionally, the European Life programme brought for example the Iberian Lynx and the Bulgarian lesser kestrel back from near extinction.

Learn about endangered species in Europe.

The final assessment of the 2020 strategy has yet to be concluded, but according to the midterm assessmentapproved by Parliament, the targets to protect species and habitats, maintain and restore ecosystems and make seas healthier were making progress, but had to speed up.

The objective to combat the invasion of alien species was well on track. In strong contrast, the contribution of agriculture and forestry to maintain and enhance biodiversity had made little progress.

The Natura 2000 network of protected nature areas in Europe has increased significantly over the past decade and now covers more than 18% of the EU land area.

Between 2008 and 2018, the marine Natura 2000 network grew more than fourfold to cover 360,000 km2. Many bird species have recorded increases in population and the status of many other species and habitats has significantly improved.

Despite its successes, the scale of these initiatives is insufficient to offset the negative trend. The main drivers of biodiversity loss - loss and degradation of habitat, pollution, climate change and invasive alien species - persist and many are on the increase, requiring a much greater effort.

The EU's 2030 Biodiversity Strategy

An important part of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s Green Deal commitments, the Commission launched the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, to go hand in hand with the Farm to Fork Strategy.

For the next 10 years, the EU will focus on an EU-wide network of protected areas on land and at sea, concrete commitments to restore degraded systems, enable change by making the measures workable and binding and take the lead in tackling biodiversity on a global level.

The new strategy outlining the EU ambition for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework was due to be adopted at the 15th UN Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2020 in China, which has been postponed.

Once adopted, the Commission plans to make concrete proposals by 2021.

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Biodiversity

Connecting knowledge for regional action towards a #SustainableBioeconomy for Europe

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Pioneering regions in Spain, Finland and Germany are taking the lead on promoting sustainable development and decarbonization of our economy with the launch of a new European Bioregions Facility.  

The Bioregions Facility connects forward-thinking regions across Europe to work together to unlock their regional potential through international exchange on the forest circular bioeconomy. In this initiative, coordinated by the European Forest Institute (EFI), the three pioneer regions are Basque Country (Spain), North Karelia (Finland), and North Rhine-Westphalia, (Germany).

The Bioregions Facility kicks off with a launch event on 9 March held in Bilbao, Spain, and which will be opened by the President of the Basque Government,  Iñigo Urkullu. EFI Director, Marc Palahí, and high-level representatives from the European Union and the three pioneer regions will be joined by leading speakers from the fields of business, finance and research.

Peter Wehrheim, Head of the Bioeconomy and Food Systems Unit represents the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation while Philippe Mengal, Director of the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), will speak on public-private partnerships for the bioeconomy. Adrian Enache, Forestry Sector and Rural Development Specialist at European Investment Bank will discuss investing in the circular bioeconomy and Nick Lyth, CEO of Green Angel Syndicate presents the investor perspective on the bioeconomy. Ulrika Landergren, Chair of The Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) of the European Committee of the Regions, will speak about the role of regions in achieving a circular bioeceonomy.

The event is the starting point to launch practical action and cooperation on a transformation towards a forest-based circular bioeconomy. Alternatives to high carbon, energy intense and non-renewable products like plastics, concrete or steel are urgently required in the face of the climate crisis where administrations are under increasing pressure to meet Paris Agreement targets and to find real solutions for carbon neutrality.

Intelligent, efficient and sustainable use of ecosystems and biomass can produce biomaterials, products and services that can replace carbon dependency but these must be relevant for local contexts. Such regional variances include natural ecosystems, availability of forest and other bioresources as well as existing technological and socio-economic conditions. However, to succeed and scale up, regional action should be based on international cooperation within a joint European vision, which is what is offered by the Bioregions Facility.

Following the launch event, the call will be open for other regions to join the initiative and there is already interest from several other regions, some of which will send representatives to the launch event to learn more.

“Regions offer the first meaningful scale to connect all relevant actors, rural and urban, primary producers and industries, innovation centers and political institutions” comments EFI Director, Marc Palahí. “All of them are needed for a successful and sustainable bioeconomy. Therefore, regions are key building blocks to unlock the potential of the bioeconomy and I am delighted that EFI is launching this initiative which supports science-informed collaboration between regions to bring the bioeconomy to action in Europe.”

The launch event will be followed by an operational day where the three pioneer regions will begin work on plans for joint strategies and actions, capacity building, partnering and exchanging experiences.

The Bioregions Facility launch event takes place on 9 March 2020 at the Palacio Euskaduna, Bilbao, Spain.

More information

Press release (PDF - EN)

Nota de prensa (PDF - ES)

https://efi.int/bioregionsfacilitylaunch2020

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Biodiversity

#Biodiversity loss: What is causing it and why is it a concern?

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Beautiful woodland bluebell forest in spring.© Shutterstock.com/Simon Bratt 

Plant and animal species are disappearing at an ever faster rate due to human activity. What are the causes and why does biodiversity matter?

Biodiversity, or the variety of all living things on our planet, has been declining at an alarming rate in recent years, mainly due to human activities, such as land use changes, pollution and climate change.

On 16 January MEPs called for legally binding targets to stop biodiversity loss to be agreed at a UN biodiversity conference (COP15) in China in October. The conference brings together parties to the 1993 UN Biodiversity Convention to decide on its post-2020 strategy. Parliament wants the EU to take the lead by ensuring that 30% of EU territory consists of natural areas by 2030 and considering biodiversity in all EU policies.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is traditionally defined as the variety of life on Earth in all its forms. It comprises the number of species, their genetic variation and the interaction of these lifeforms within complex ecosystems.

In a UN report published in 2019, scientists warned that one million species - out of an estimated total of eight million - are threatened with extinction, many within decades. Some researchers even consider we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history. Earlier known mass extinctions wiped out between 60% and 95% of all species. It takes millions of years for ecosystems to recover from such an event.

Why is biodiversity important?

Healthy ecosystems provide us with many essentials we take for granted. Plants convert energy from the sun making it available to other life forms. Bacteria and other living organisms break down organic matter into nutrients providing plants with healthy soil to grow in. Pollinators are essential in plant reproduction, guaranteeing our food production. Plants and oceans act as major carbon sinks.

In short, biodiversity provides us with clean air, fresh water, good quality soil and crop pollination. It helps us fight climate change and adapt to it as well reduce the impact of natural hazards.

Since living organisms interact in dynamic ecosystems, the disappearance of one species can have a far-reaching impact on the food chain. It is impossible to know exactly what the consequences of mass extinctions would be for humans, but we do know that for now the diversity of nature allows us to thrive.

Main reasons for biodiversity loss
  • Changes in land use (e.g. deforestation, intensive mono-culture, urbanization)
  • Direct exploitation such as hunting and over-fishing
  • Climate change
  • Pollution
  • Invasive alien species

What measures does the Parliament propose?

MEPs are calling for legally binding targets both locally and globally, in order to encourage more ambitious measures to ensure the conservation and the restoration of biodiversity. Natural areas should cover 30% of the EU territory by 2030 and degraded ecosystems should be restored. In order to guarantee sufficient financing, Parliament proposes that 10% of the EU’s next long-term budget is devoted to conservation of biodiversity

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