By Virginijus Sinkevicius, for EURACTIV.
The EU’s new Biodiversity Strategy will increase the EU’s network of marine protected areas, writes Virginijus Sinkevicius.
Virginijus Sinkevicius is the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries
Being awarded with an international day very often means you are in some kind of trouble. So celebrating World Oceans Day today, 8 June, only a few weeks after World Earth Day, tells you something. Especially as 70% of Earth is, in fact, the ocean.
Despite the witty phrasing above, the message behind it is serious and supported by alarming scientific evidence. Last year, the IPBES – the United Nation’s intergovernmental platform for biodiversity and ecosystem services – showed that marine biodiversity is declining at unprecedented rates. A few weeks earlier, the IPCC – the UN’s climate body – released an alarming report about the impact of climate change on our oceans and the cryosphere.
The state of the ocean is dire, and this concerns us all. What happens at sea really doesn’t stay at sea. When the ocean is threatened, so are the fundamental processes and services which depend on it, from providing half of the oxygen we breathe, or storing a quarter of the CO2 produced by human activity, to governing temperature, wind and precipitation around the globe.
World Oceans Day exists to remind us of that.
In this context, the European Commission has recently published its EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, a major deliverable under the European Green Deal. It aims to put Europe’s biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030 with benefits for people, the climate and the planet.
One of the best ways to do that is by taking nature-based solutions, including marine protected areas (MPAs) and other effective conservation measures. Already a decade ago, the international community agreed to protect 10% of the marine environment through MPAs by 2020. In 2018, the EU has formally reached this target, although key challenges remain. Also in the rest of the world, national and regional approaches are being developed. Nevertheless, with global coverage of only 7.5% – and an even smaller percentage that is effectively managed – and close to zero protection in the high seas, we are clearly missing our target for 2020.
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