Biodiversity: Commission progress report on EU action to protect pollinators highlights urgency of action

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the Commission is publishing a report on the implementation of the first-ever EU Pollinators Initiative, which the Commission adopted in 2018 to address the decline of wild pollinating insects. Pollinating insects are crucial for the functioning of ecosystems, our food security, for medicines and our wellbeing. However, one in ten bee and butterfly species in Europe are on the verge of extinction, and one third of them are in decline. The review published today shows that significant progress has been made in the implementation of the initiative’s actions, but challenges remain in tackling the various drivers of decline.

The report shows that the initiative remains a useful policy tool that allows the EU, Member States and stakeholders to tackle the decline of pollinators. By the end of 2020, more than thirty actions have been implemented across three priority areas: improving knowledge of pollinator decline; tackling the causes of pollinator decline; engaging the public and promoting cooperation to halt the decline. Among others, the Commission launched the Pollinator Park – an interactive digital tool to raise awareness about the dangerous decline of pollinators and mobilise global action to address it. Pollinator Park is a virtual reality experience set in 2050, in a world where pollinating insects have all but disappeared. The variety of activities at local, regional, national and EU level showed that the public acknowledges the problem and is ready to act.

Under the EU Pollinators initiative an EU-wide scheme monitoring pollinators’ species to better understand the status of their populations and the causes of their decline has been developed. It will soon be deployed on the ground throughout the EU. The Commission has established a dedicated pollinator-information system and launched a series of tailored research initiatives.

Efforts need to be stepped up, however, to address in particular the loss of habitats in farming landscapes and the impacts of pesticides. The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan  set specific objectives to address this, such as expanding protected areas and restoring ecosystems, promoting  organic agriculture, restoring high-diversity landscape features on farmland, and significantly reducing the use of pesticides and other environmental pollutants harmful to pollinators. The new EU strategy on adaptation to climate change and strengthened ambition on climate neutrality will help to mitigate impacts of climate change on pollinators. 

Members of the College said:

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “The alarming decline of insects that pollinate crops and wild plants puts food security at risk and threatens our survival and that of nature as a whole. The EU has put in place specific policy tools to address their decline, mobilised cross-sectoral action and made significant progress in pollinator monitoring. Today’s report shows that we clearly need to do more to fight the main drivers of their steep decline. Further mainstreaming of pollinator conservation into the Common Agricultural Policy and pesticide legislative framework will be critical.”

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said: “Protecting our pollinators will remain a crucial ambition under the European Green Deal and will contribute to achieving the objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy, including a 50% reduction in the use and risk of chemical pesticides. When we approve or remove active substances for plant protection from the market, we always take into account the importance of ensuring a high level of protection of bees and other pollinators.” 

Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said: ”Agriculture and food security heavily rely on pollinators, their worrying decline needs to be further addressed. As highlighted in today’s report, efforts need to be stepped up regarding the loss of habitats in farming landscapes and the impact of pesticides. The future Common Agricultural Policy, in line with the Green Deal objectives, shall largely contribute to this by introducing higher environmental and climate ambition. For instance, to receive funds, farmers will have to dedicate farming land to biodiversity. In addition, in the field of research and innovation, one of the priorities is to find alternatives to the use of pesticides.”

Next steps

In the second half of 2021, the Commission will launch consultation activities to collect views and more comprehensive evidence from experts, stakeholders and citizens for the possible improvement of the initiative, identifying further measures for the implementation of its long-term objectives. The Commission will take into account the feedback received and consider the scope for revising the EU Pollinators Initiative.

Background

The EU Pollinators Initiative, adopted in June 2018, presents strategic objectives and a set of actions to be taken by the EU and its Member States to address the decline of pollinators in the EU and contribute to global conservation efforts.

Pollinators are an integral part of healthy ecosystems. Without them, many plant species would decline and eventually disappear along with the organisms that depend on them, which would have serious ecological, social and economic implications. In the EU alone, every four in five crop and wild flower species depend, at least in part, on animal pollination.

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Comments

  1. Protect pollinators in the EU is a mammoth task in biodiversity. Thank you 😊

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