The EU is "highly unlikely" to meet its objective of putting a stop to biodiversity loss by 2010, the European Commission admits.
For the bloc to even come close to achieving the target, "intensive efforts" will have to be made by both the Commission and individual member states, according to the mid-term assessment of progress on implementing the Biodiversity Action Plan to halt biodiversity loss in the EU.
Earlier this year, European leaders reiterated their support for the 2010 target to end the destruction of European natural heritage, first adopted in 2000, but the political commitment hasn't translated into effective action.
The report reveals that 50% of all species and up to 80% of habitat types deemed by the EU to be "of conservation interest" in Europe now have "unfavourable conservation" status. The same goes for over 40% of European bird species. While targeted measures to protect endangered life forms have been a success so far, large-scale action is nevertheless needed, it notes.
One positive EU development is the expansion of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, but site management and financing issues for the scheme must be further addressed, the report says. It also records gaps in EU legislation, most notably concerning invasive species and soil conservation.
The Commission identifies integration of biodiversity considerations into different sectoral policies as a major task yet to be tackled. The agricultural sector, in particular, puts pressure on natural systems as an increasing amount of land is required to meet growing demand for food and to provide energy crops following the EU's new biofuel policy.
Environmental organisations were less than impressed by the results of the analysis. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) called for an "Ecosystem Rescue Plan" to avert "planetary bankruptcy". "Nature doesn't do bail-outs," said EEB Biodiversity Policy Officer Pieter de Pous, drawing parallels with the financial crisis.
Konstantin Kreiser, EU policy manager at BirdLife International in Brussels, also stated that if governments "shy away from acting for our planet now, the price of a future bail-out will dwarf the current economic crisis". The NGO further criticised the "embarrassing" behaviour of the governments of Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Luxembourg, all of which failed to even respond to the Commission's questions when the report was compiled.
The EU exective's report acknowledges that loss of "ecosystem services", for example pollination, will trigger welfare loss of 6% of global GDP every year by 2050 if nothing is done.