Goods and services to be priced according to their environmental footprints

Goods and services should be priced according to the actual impact on the environment. Agricultural, forestry and fisheries policies should integrate, within them, environmental protection measures.

The proposal comes from Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Environment Agency (EEA) who, at a conference on biodiversity protection on 27 April, told the audience the current price of goods and services “does not reflect their impact on the ecosystems that sustain them.”

Truth is the EU is failing to achieve its ambitious target of halting biodiversity loss in Europe by 2010. “External pressures on biodiversity are not uniform or held in place by geographical designations, and we must not focus all our efforts on preserving islands of biodiversity while losing nature everywhere else.”

The EEA believes “better ecosystem accounting, which indicates the real value of the natural capital that we deplete through our economic activity,” is necessary. The agency is urging the EU to integrate biodiversity and ecosystems into key sectors like agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

At the conference, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso confirmed the results of last year’s progress report on the implementation of the EU’s Biodiversity Action Plan, which revealed that the bloc is not even close to achieving its target of halting biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010).

According to the report, 50% of all species and up to 80% of habitat types in need of protection in Europe have “unfavourable conservation” status, which indicates species decline. The same goes for over 40% of European bird species.

“We are running up debts against the future of the planet that we will never be able to repay,” said Barroso, referring to the destruction of nature as “the ultimate toxic asset”.

Barroso presented the EU executive’s new “seven-point plan for nature protection,” which highlights the need to better communicate why biodiversity and healthy ecosystems matter, and how they underpin economic, social and cultural well-being.

The Commission president also urged member states to implement existing EU legislation, citing the Birds and Habitats Directives as examples. The EU must also “agree on new policies to address deforestation and to reduce the EU’s ecological footprint,” he added.

BirdLife International welcomed “the strong calls made by key decision-makers” to put an end to the loss of animal and plant species, but lamented the apparent “huge gap between aspirations and real action”. It also deplored the fact that the conference’s message remained “vague”, and was not ambitious enough regarding the policy reform required.

The ‘European Habitats Forum’ – comprising 17 conservation NGOs – presented the conference with its recommendation for the EU’s ‘post-2010’ biodiversity policy. The forum is calling for a complete reform of all EU sectoral policies which have adverse effects on the environment, to support the resilience of ecosystems. It is also urging the bloc to adopt new legislation on soil conservation and reducing invasive alien species.


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