BirdLife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau and Greenpeace sent an open letter to the governments of the European Union member states who are gathered in Brussels for the European Council. They called on them to act on the loss of biodiversity and climate change.

In the letter, the groups stressed that the evidence is becoming overwhelming that the life supporting ecosystems of our planet are collapsing. They said that two of the biggest challenges facing mankind are the loss of biodiversity and climate change.

The United Nations Biodiversity Conference that just took place in Sharm El Sheikh again showed the urgency to act. But prominent leaders remain shockingly silent.

“The meeting of the European Council offers a good chance to deliver at the European level. One agenda item is the EU Budget (Multiannual Financial Framework, MFF). Civil society organisations have criticised the European Commission’s MFF proposals for financing unsustainable policies.”

Critics warn that the proposed MFF ignores the biodiversity crisis and the need for a sustainable future of Europe. Despite evidence showing the huge funding gap for the Natura 2000 network, it does not foresee a dedicated financing instrument for biodiversity.

The proposed MFF sticks to the traditional architecture of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). It concentrates cuts on the CAP’s more targeted and effective rural development pillar, whereas the evidence increasingly shows that first pillar direct payment spending is inefficient, wasteful and environmentally harmful.

The proposed goal for climate mainstreaming (25% of EU expenditure) is insufficient to deliver the Paris commitments. Even worse, the European Commission proposes to count much of the climate harmful CAP subsidies as climate funding, a perversion that would destroy the EU’s credibility both with citizens and at global climate negotiations.

“As leaders you should not simply welcome the preparatory work on the negotiating box while remaining silent on substantial issues,” reads the letter to EU governments. “Business as usual is not an option, it cannot tackle the planetary challenges we face. The MFF is not only an accounting tool but a means to achieve political objectives. It is in your hands to make polluters pay, and to shape a European budget that serves the interest of nature and all citizens.”

The groups called on the EU to introduce binding ring-fencing of €15bn per annum to meet nature conservation objectives in the countryside (e.g. implementation of Natura 2000) and halt biodiversity loss. The heading “Natural Resources and Environment” must live up to its promise.

They also called for a shift in spending from the “largely inefficient and ineffective” first pillar of the CAP to its second pillar and make all spending dependent on the respect for environmental legislation. The debate is not about “taking money away from farmers”, but about spending efficiency in the interest of all citizens, farmers included.

Another demand is for the EU to ensure 1% of the budget is dedicated to the highly successful LIFE programme so that it can play the role of catalyst and help leverage other EU and national funds.

Also note in the letter is the need to transform the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund into a “true ocean conservation fund” by excluding any subsidies that aggravate overfishing. Instead, ring-fence funds for the ecological restoration of our seas.

The letter also signals the need to increase the climate mainstreaming goal to at least 40% of the whole EU Budget (whereby only actual but not planned expenditure should be counted).

The letter was signed by Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy, BirdLife Europe, Patrick ten Brink, EU Policy Director, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), and Jorgo Riss, Director, Greenpeace European Unit.