In Focus

“The new Biodiversity Strategy cuts across various EU policies”

Interview with Stefan Leiner (European Commission)

Biodiversity in Europe is at great risk; the protection afforded to animal and plant species and their habitats is not sufficient. The EU Biodiversity Strategy, which was developed as part of the Green Deal, seeks to significantly improve the setting for conservation action. Its objectives include the statutory protection of terrestrial and marine areas, the restoration of damaged ecosystems and the reversal of the decline in pollinators such as wild bees and butterflies. In an interview with eco@work, Stefan Leiner, Head of the Biodiversity Unit at the EU Commission's Directorate-General for the Environment, explains how these goals can be reached and whether it is realistic to achieve a good conservation status for ecosystems by 2050.

Mr Leiner, what are the benefits of the new EU Biodiversity Strategy?

It is based on scientific evidence. We now have measures that directly address the causes of biodiversity loss – and very tangible, measurable targets. One example would be the target of at least 30 per cent of the terrestrial and marine areas to be given protected status and one third of these, i.e. a total of ten per cent, to be afforded very strict protection. At the same time, rather than focusing solely on environmental policy, the new biodiversity strategy addresses a variety of EU policies, such as agriculture and forestry, research and development, finance and economics, and development cooperation.

Why does the issue of consumption hardly play a role in the biodiversity strategy?

Because it is not all that easy to do something about this, here at the European level. This is more a matter for national and local authorities. At the same time, many measures or regulations that we initiate will influence consumption patterns, for example when it comes to cooperating with private-sector businesses or working towards targets set for organic agriculture. In addition, the Farm-To-Fork Strategy, which was adopted at the same time as the Biodiversity Strategy, addresses several issues around consumption. Examples would be changes to food labelling or the avoidance of food waste.

The nature restoration targets are designed to help restore biodiversity in the future. How can this be achieved?

By formulating a general objective as part of an EU legislative act to achieve a good conservation status for ecosystems by 2050. In addition, we need highly tangible, legally binding targets for Member States to restore a certain proportion of the different ecosystems listed in the EU Nature Directives by 2030, 2040 and 2050. There is a need for very clear requirements for Member States to achieve significantly more than they have so far. For example, the proportion of areas that have a good conservation status should increase substantially. And special attention should be paid to pollinator populations, the restoration of marine ecosystems, and increases in urban greenspaces. To this end, the Member States are to draw up national nature restoration plans.

Is it realistic to achieve a good conservation status for ecosystems by 2050?

It is feasible, if the various legal, financial and social incentives that exist for the protection and restoration of healthy ecosystems are really put to work. It’s not like we’re lacking good examples. Successful EU LIFE projects, for example, including those implemented in Germany, have shown what can be achieved within short timeframes, such as in peatland restoration.

What should an agricultural policy look like that is more strongly oriented towards biodiversity?

It should, for example, direct funding in such a way that farms that host more biodiversity on their land also receive more money. Unfortunately, that is not the case at the moment.

Thank you for talking to eco@work.

The interviewer was Christiane Weihe.


In conversation with eco@work: Stefan Leiner, Head of the Biodiversity Unit at the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Environment