Parliament urges the EU to reduce its impact on the planet, adapt agriculture and trade policy to halt biodiversity loss, and invest in greater protection for fragile ecosystems

In a vote in Parliament on Tuesday, MEPs endorsed a report calling for the EU, as one of the world’s largest development actors and economic powers, to take seriously its responsibility towards halting global biodiversity loss.                                                                       The report, adopted by 351 votes in favour, 31 against, and 304 abstentions, calls on the EU to continue to reduce its biodiversity footprint worldwide, while also addressing the complex roots of biodiversity loss by focusing its external development policies on conservation, the sustainable use of resources, and the restoration of damaged ecosystems.

Prosecuting environmental crime

Recognising the importance of biodiversity and planetary health, MEPs are calling on the EU to oppose to environmental crimes more forcefully. Specifically, they demand a crackdown on illegal wildlife trafficking, expanding the scope of the Environmental Crime Directive and introducing specific provisions for sanctions so that activities like illegal fishing, wildlife crime, and forest crime are recognised as serious offences. To bolster these efforts, the EU should push for the International Criminal Court to cover criminal acts that amount to ecocide, MEPs urge.

Financing for biodiversity

MEPs want the Commission to honour the existing agreement under the 2021-2027 Global Europe budget for EU external action to commit 7.5% of annual spending on biodiversity objectives from 2024, rising to 10% by 2026, while also calling for this figure to be increased. The work of EU financial institutions, such as the European Investment Bank, in developing countries should be consistent with the EU’s climate commitments and follow a rights-based approach in their dealings with local and indigenous people, MEPs demand.

Human rights-based approach to biodiversity

Businesses and the corporate sector should be held to account more robustly by the Commission on their responsibilities towards sustainability and biodiversity, say MEPs, who are also calling for EU agriculture (and trade policy to be adapted to halt global deforestation, unsustainable fishing practices, and marine pollution.                                       Finally, the EU and member states should recognise people’s right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, by including it in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, MEPs demand. The use of genetic modification technologies should be more strictly policed in favour of local, alternative farming solutions.                                                  After the vote, rapporteur Michèle Rivasi (Greens/EFA, France) said: “In the context of declining biodiversity, the leadership of indigenous peoples and local communities in conservation, the protection of their rights and their access to justice must be recognised. Protecting biodiversity is a major cross-cutting issue. Any European measure must be consistent with international human rights agreements and prioritise the fight against land grabbing, deforestation, the most dangerous pesticides, GMOs and biopiracy.”

It is estimated that 70% of people living in poverty worldwide directly depend on biological diversity for their livelihood. At the same time global biodiversity loss – driven by climate change, pollution, habitat loss, deforestation, and overfishing – is disproportionately concentrated in the world’s poorest countries. UN agencies consider its impact to be a threat to global food security, global public health, economic development, environmental protection, and good governance.                                                                                               The EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 is committed to achieving a situation in which all of the world’s ecosystems have been restored, are resilient and adequately protected by 2050, in line with the European Green Deal and the Sustainable Development Goals.