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Tiny fraction of EU budget safeguards wildlife

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Europe risks a rising wave of wildlife extinctions as it continues to massively under-resource and under-enforce nature and wildlife protection, WWF said today following the release of a report by the European Commission showing 65 percent of European habitats and more than half its remaining species are under threat.

“Our neglect of the health of our natural systems is setting ourselves up for the negative economic effects of an environment less diverse and thus less resilient to climate change,” said Andreas Baumüller, Biodiversity Policy Officer at WWF’s European Policy Office.

The first assessment of the outcomes of the EU Habitats Directive, originally adopted 17 years ago, shows that with 65 percent of habitats and 52 percent of species considered in bad or unfavourable conservation status, Europe will miss its commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2010.

The analysis published by the European Commission shows that over the last decade the European Union has reduced its direct investments in nature protection to a tiny 0,1 percent of the EU budget.

“Each European citizen pays every year about 300 euro to the European Union, but just 30 cents are used to safeguard our natural heritage,” Baumüller said. “The bad status of our environment is just the inevitable consequence of decades of wrong political decisions.”

The report shows that decades of intensive agriculture and effectively unregulated fisheries have put European natural resources in a critical status. In areas dependant on agriculture, almost 80 percent of habitats are in trouble and almost 90 percent of commercial fish stocks are overfished, with a third at risk of being beyond recovery.

WWF highlights that the assessment is likely optimistic, with massive under-reporting by some States on the conservation status of threatened habitats and wildlife.

“Despite the legal obligation to gather information and take appropriate measures for the protection of the environment, in countries like Spain the status of nearly two thirds of habitats is still unknown. And no data are provided about the conservation status of around half the threatened species in Greece, Cyprus or Portugal.” said Baumüller.

“You cannot protect what you do not know - delays and misreporting at national levels need to be subject to effective sanctions if we want to guarantee a healthy and economically viable environment for our future generations.”

WWF praised the initiative introduced in 2001, when Heads of States made a commitment to “halt the decline of biodiversity by 2010”.

The key result was the creation of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas that now includes 17 percent of European territory and is to be extended to cover marine areas.

“Essentially however, our politicians still don’t understand that it is not a matter of protecting a bunch of rare plants and animals from extinction,” Baumüller said. “Nature guarantees a healthy and functioning environment for our life and that of all other living species.”

WWF is calling on the European Union to maintain an ambitious target of halting biodiversity loss by 2020, urging European governments to set up a real “European Recovery Plan for Biodiversity” in order to increase “eco friendly” investments, protect and manage Natura 2000 terrestrial and marine sites, develop renewables and green infrastructures and introduce farming and fishing practices that do not harm our ecosystems
Last Updated on Monday, 13 July 2009 17:29  
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