European Union External Action

Nature is calling – a week of climate and biodiversity on EU agenda

23/10/2020 - 12:35
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Both nature and biodiversity are essential for life on Earth. We must protect nature to tackle climate change, prevent biodiversity loss and protect people from the spread of devastating pandemics. Climate and biodiversity were high on the EU agenda over the past week, which kicked off with discussions by Heads of Member States at the European Council before the weekend, the launch of the EU Green Week on Monday, as well as participation in the climate and biodiversity talks at EXPO 2020. The week comes to an end with the Environment Council.

European Council conclusions on climate change

On Friday 16 October, the European Council discussed the Commission’s communication on ‘Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition’, including the proposed emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030, and the actions required to achieve that ambition. EU leaders consider that the updated target should be delivered collectively by the EU in the most cost-effective manner possible. All member states will participate in this effort, taking into account national circumstances and considerations of fairness and solidarity.

European Green Week 2020

#EUGreenWeek 2020, the biggest annual event on European environmental policy, took place from 19 to 22 October, starting with a hybrid conference in Lisbon, Portugal, and continued virtually for the rest of the week. A diverse range of Partner Events have also been organised across Europe. EU Green Week 2020 highlighted the importance of rethinking our relationship with nature, and the contribution biodiversity can make to society and the economy.


Day 1 of #EUGreenWeek:

Experts discussed biodiversity in the global context in particular focusing on the 2030 Agenda. Discussions included themes such as biodiversity adaptation under climate change; bringing biodiversity back into cities; the new green and blue economies; solutions for a biodiverse and equitable world. Key focus points included rewilding nature, reducing deforestation and biodiversity-friendly food production systems.

Day 2 of #EUGreenWeek:

#EUGreenWeek 2020 continued with the opening of the virtual conference in Brussels. Sessions focused on the important role biodiversity will play in helping to recover and rebuild in the wake of the global pandemic, and highlighted the recently published 2020 State of Nature report.

Day 3 of #EUGreenWeek:

Halfway through #EUGreenWeek the winners of the most innovative, inspirational and effective LIFE projects at the LIFE Awards ceremony were revealed. The awards were split in in three categories. The winners of the Environment category were FLAW4LIFE (Portugal), the Climate Action category FIRELIFE (Hungary) and the Nature Protection category LIFE DINALP BEAR (a cross-border project in Slovenia, Austria, Croatia and Italy). This year, a special award also honoured prepAIR (Italy) as an outstanding project that helped communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Day 4 of #EUGreenWeek - final day:

The last day of the European Green Week was all about taking action. In Brussels, the youth advocacy group, Biodiversity Action Europe (BAE), took centre stage presenting their Call for Action for a biodiverse planet. Calling for transformative change, they urged the European Union to address the biodiversity crisis in three specific ways: engage with science and environmental agreements, enforce existing laws and regulations, and enable society to reshape its relationship with nature. BAE also called on all of us to take action to live more harmoniously with nature.

The closing session also reflected on the main lessons of the week, featuring a message from the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

EXPO Climate and Biodiversity week

‘The European Green Deal: building a future-proof Europe with younger generations’ was the topic for discussion during the EXPO Climate and biodiversity week, on 21 October, where the EU was represented by Elina Bardram, Head of Unit for International Relations, at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Climate Action, and Christian Schwarzer, Co-founder and member of the Steering Committee of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network.

The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing governments to plan unprecedented spending to prop up economies hit by the coronavirus. The EU is designing its response as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ‘build back better’ and invest in the economy of the 21st century: managing the transition to climate-neutrality, halting biodiversity loss, moving to zero pollution and to digitalisation in a way that leaves no one behind. This is the “European Green Deal”.

The Commissioner General for the European Union at EXPO 2020, Ambassador Andrea Matteo Fontana said: "As a participant in EXPO 2020 the European Union was pleased to contribute to the discussions during the Climate & Biodiversity week to share the EU's approach to tackle these key issues"

During the session, the speakers representing the EU had the opportunity to talk about Europe’s post-COVID19 strategy to drive a new industrial revolution that will create sustainable jobs in a modernised economy while improving health and well-being of our citizens in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. It was also an occasion to talk about the importance of an empowered youth and civil society in this process as actors for change capable of fostering intergenerational and international partnerships.

"In the midst of the Covid crisis we’re joining from our family rooms, many of us working remotely, and it is a strong reminder that ignoring climate and environmental degradation is short sighted and detrimental. But the crisis resulting from this pandemic does not change the climate challenge," Elina Bardram stressed.

Elina explained that the EU is and has always been one of the strong proponents and champions of global climate ambitions with a mission to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050.

"We now have a once in a generation opportunity that we cannot miss. We can build back societies and economies better to ensure sustainable green recovery where no one is left behind. In Europe we decided to grasp this opportunity and turn our EU green deal into the blue print to make the transformation possible and economically successful," Elina said.

"Let us all seize this opportunity, of a societal reset to confront the existential challenge of climate head on and use it to furture-proof our countries," concluded Elina.

Christian Schwarzer, who is also a Youth Ambassador for the UN Decade on Biodiversity echoed Elina Bardrams statement that the new deal is offering a once in a generation opportunity to change the game, but stressed that “young people should be at the heart of this new green deal.”

Christian spoke about the importance of intergenerational equity and making sure that it is enshrined in all programmes that are launched. He stated that “There is a strong environmental movement that wants to work with the European Union but we need to be empowered.” He explained how his youth organisation for example is focused on creating a strong agenda for biodiversity and making sure biodiversity is on top of the agenda, because “My generation has to live with the consequences of the climate policies and biodiversity policies that are taken today, and the green deal is giant investment and we need to be sure it goes in the right direction.” He also emphasised the importance of implementation and action.

#BeTheWave – take the challenge for climate change

Complementary to the above – youth and action are at the heart of the ongoing #BeTheWave campaign to address climate change. #BeTheWave is a social media initiative that asks young people around the world to think global and act local. The campaign challenges users to make small, climate-friendly changes in their daily lives, share their achievements on Instagram, and inspire their friends and followers to do the same. In doing so, #BeTheWave shows how even the simplest action can grow from a ripple into a wave of global change.

Through the #BeTheWave campaign the EU further contributes to the implementation of climate-related Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, this all happens during a very special year: the 75th anniversary of the United Nations that celebrates its birthday tomorrow.

Environment Council

In December 2019, EU environment ministers called upon the Commission to develop an ambitious, realistic and coherent 2030 EU biodiversity strategy as a central element of the European Green Deal. The Environment Council, on 23 October sees the adoption of conclusions on biodiversity, providing political guidance on the implementation of the EU biodiversity strategy up to 2030.