10-03-2020 / Regreen Project
2020 and beyond, a decisive decade for biodiversity
By Vasileios Latinos, ICLEI, January 2020
A new report exploring the future of cities released by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre states that public space makes up 2-15 percent of land in European city centres. Their ‘greenness’ has increased over the last 25 years – by a total of 38 percent – with an average of 18 square metres of publicly-accessible green space now available per inhabitant. According to the report, 44 percent of Europe’s urban population lives within 300 metres of a public park. At face value, the numbers look good. According to the World Health Organisation, we just need a minimum of nine square metres of green space each. Therefore, in Europe, we have more than double, and nearly half of us can get to a local park with minimal effort. However, what about other parts of the world? How decisive is biodiversity loss in our cities for losing ground in achieving sustainability? Just before the CBD COP15 in China, how can Europe place itself as a global leader for biodiversity and nature conservation? 
EU Green Deal as a strong impetus for nature conservation
Europe has just entered a new and very decisive decade, including a new scientific and policy cycle, the recently revealed European Green Deal and the climate neutrality targets (by 2050), all in line with the Paris Agreement goals. The EU Green Deal is definitely one of the most ambitious package of measures that should enable European citizens and businesses to benefit from sustainable green transition, combining both emissions cutting and preservation of natural environment. Above all, the European Green Deal requires a transition that is just and socially fair, and is designed in such a way as to leave no individual or region behind in the great transformation ahead.
When it comes to EU Green Deal approach to nature conservation, the EU has set to halt biodiversity loss, both at home and abroad. For that reason, the EU will present a Biodiversity Strategy by March 2020, outlining the continent’s position towards the Global Conference of Parties, which will contain both global targets to protect biodiversity and EU commitments to address the main causes of biodiversity loss.
Specific measures to meet biodiversity objectives could include increasing the coverage of protected biodiversity-rich land and sea building on the Natura 2000 network, as well as strengthening legislation that helps Member States to restore degraded ecosystems to good-ecological status, including carbon-rich ecosystems. The European Commission will consider drafting a nature restoration plan and will look at how to provide funding to help Member States to reach this aim. Furthermore, the biodiversity strategy will propose to green European cities and increase biodiversity in urban spaces.
Global policy framework for the protection of biodiversity until 2050
Looking globally, 2020 will also be a decisive year with some key events that could, and hopefully will, lead to strong political determinations for the transformation towards climate neutrality, sustainable development and cities that are more resilient, again without forgetting the important role of nature and biodiversity.
This series of events includes, first, the Biodiversity COP15 in Kunming (China) in October, which will come up with a new global framework for the protection of biodiversity until 2050, as well as the Climate COP26 in November in Glasgow (United Kingdom), where the revised nationally determined contributions towards the Paris Agreement will be presented.
Of course, these developments will be influenced by the EU that seeks to lead, but their outcomes will also affect the EU Green Deal ambition and implementation. Therefore, we first have to make sure that the EU proves its aspiration, as well as credibility, to become the leading region in all the relevant processes – including the UN 2030 sustainable development agenda – not only by ambitious goals but also through concrete measures, legislation and re-direction of financial streams.
Regardless, we definitely look forward to an exciting year for biodiversity, be sure we will follow and report on decisions being put forward, at both the EU and global level.