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Webinar recording: Protecting and restoring nature #EUGreenWeek

By Platform

On 20 October, the Policy Learning Platform hosted a webinar in light of the #EUGreenWeek on the topic of better policies to protect and restore nature. Together with speakers from the European Commission, the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and inspirational examples of two Interreg Europe projects. 

The 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy establishes a framework for protecting and restoring our natural capital and puts nature at the centre of the recovery. At the same time, halting biodiversity loss and restoring ecosystems is extremely urgent as confirmed by the recent EEA 'State of Nature in the EU' report. Karin Zaunberger (European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment) pointed out that: 'We know we are in a planetary emergency. We have the knowledge and the means to address it. The question is: will we be doing it in the time available? Nature is the timekeeper. There will be no bail-outs with nature'.

The case for protecting and restoring the natural heritage through transformative changes has been made even more compelling by Covid-19, which exposed the interlinkages between nature, our health and the changing climate. Erik Gerritsen (Institute for European Environmental Policy) focused on scaling-up nature-based approaches through EU Regional Policy and shed some positive light on the situation: 'Beyond the sobering assessments on the state of nature in the EU, evidence also shows plenty of regional conservation successes', emphasising also that: 'our focus must now be on scaling them up by actually using available budgets and target them better to priority protection and restoration needs'.

Good policy decisions are based on good quality information. Therefore, an environment of collaboration and mutual trust between data providers and users is crucial for sound policymaking.
- Gerard Bota, lead partner of the BID-REX project.

Webinar recording

Policy change always starts with the interaction of stakeholders. Local biodiversity conservation efforts need more systematic support if we really want to have nature back in our lives.
- Wim Hiemstra, lead partner of the BIOGOV project.

Webinar agenda overview 

00:04:06 Keynote speaker Karin Zaunberger from the European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment, focused on the new EU biodiversity strategy.

00:18:44 Q&A: Where should a region start with it's biodiversity measures and activities? 

00:21:13 Q&A: There is a lot of funding available but that it's not yet being used well by the regions. Is that indeed still the situation and can regions use funding for biodiversity and nature measures? 

00:24:56 Keynote speaker Erik Gerritsen from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) presented 'Building back better with nature'.

00:40:35 Q&A: What comes first? Protection or restoration? 

00:42:03 Q&A: Should regions have a nature protection and restoration plan?

00:44:55 Gerard Bota, lead partner from the BID-REX project focused on linking biodiversity data and conservation decision-making.

00:56:42 Q&A: Is the most important point to translate the data to make it accessible for policymakers?

00:59:09 Q&A: You mentioned volunteers in your presentation, there are standardised ways to collection information and people want to participate. So, would you promote the use of volunteers?

01:01:58 Wim Hiemstra from the province of Fryslân, lead partner of the BIOGOV project focused on improved governance and broad stakeholder support for biodiversity

Panel discussion

1:17:38 Reflections from Karin Zaunberger and Erik Gerritsen on the progress of the Interreg Europe projects represented by Gerard Bota (BID-REX project) and Wim Hiemstra (BIOGOV project).

Key learnings 

We highlight here the main take-aways from our webinar:

  • Nature is the basis for life on the planet. Humanity is not only part of nature, it fully depends on nature for its very survival, starting from the provision of food, clean air and fresh water. Moreover, almost half of global GDP is linked to nature.
  • The loss of biodiversity is threatening humanity and is closely linked to climate change and health issues such as the outbreak of pandemics.
  • Policymakers, stakeholders and citizens need to act now to address this global crisis. The policy frameworks, funding sources and solutions are in place. Implementation of protection and restoration measures has to start without any further delay.
  • In addition to a clear policy framework and scientific data, main success factors for EU conservation are interregional cooperation, monitoring, evaluation and enforcement measures in particular in agriculture and forestry as well as stakeholder involvement. A key driver for broader implementation is communication at all levels!
  • There will be no need to reinvent the wheel. Inspiration can be drawn from interregional cooperation, which can be rightly listed among the success factors for biodiversity conservation as explained in the paper 'The EU Interreg Programme in support of Natura 2000 and biodiversity (2000-2020)'.
  • Awareness on the different funding sources that regions can use to implement measures to protect and restore nature are still low. However, the funding opportunities for nature protection offered by EU Regional Policy in the context of the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework (2021-2027) should be seized by local and regional authorities through smart operational planning.
  • The focus on restoration should not make us forget that preventing degradation of ecological values is always the best cure, also for maintaining and developing further the Natura 2000 network in the light of the 2030 Strategy new targets, according to which at least 30% of land and 30% of the sea should be protected (i.e. a minimum of  4% and 19%, respectively, as compared to today).
  • Conservation activities need to scale-up and more has to be done both for protection and restoration, including in urban areas. As COVID-19 has shown, we need to bring even more green spaces to the city centres.
  • Linking biodiversity data to decision-making processes is essential for making sure that successful conservation measures are adopted to respond to the growing societal concerns about the decline of nature. The current challenge is to translate raw data and make them ‘digestible’ for sound policymaking. Inspiring examples are the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service and the Biodiversity information flow in the Basque Country.
  • Stakeholder involvement and interaction is a win-win solution both for biodiversity conservation and the fulfilment of other societal objectives. Multi-Stakeholders Partnerships (MSP) should gain systemic support as shown in the experiences from BIOGOV in building facilitation skills, developing local success cases and bridging alliances at administrative level.

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