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Ecological services, such as food, fresh water, clean air, shelter, pest control, disease mitigation or climate regulation, are at the center of our very existence. Half of the global GDP depends on nature or fully functioning ecosystem services [1] but only 1.5% of 2018 GDP  would be needed to achieve the current 2030 climate and energy targets [2].

 

The current funding mechanisms do not meet the profitable, long term and self-sustaining investment potential of preserving biodiversity. Currently, conservation is largely dependent on funding. However, these monetary injections are meaningless without a full economic consideration of culture, labour and fair distribution of resources. Our current economic model needs to fully recognize the monetary value of ecosystem services. Trying to stop mass extinction, global warming and habitat destruction will not be feasible through sporadic donations. Short-term cash infusions might provide short-term solutions in specific emergencies, but will never replace the urgent need for a radical transformation of the economic system.  Only the holistic and full acknowledgment of nature’s value in the very center of our societal structure will enable people to engage in sustainable occupations in the long-term (in the EU, 7% of the labour market is directly related to biodiversity [3], 55% is closely related to ecosystem services [4] and 4.2 million people were employed in environmental economy in the EU-27, of which many, especially women, were and are still underpaid). We call for a broader approach:  a continuous, holistic mode of action that mobilizes both public and private sectors to meet global targets.

The European Green New Deal must encompass a long-term vision of change. Still, it promotes a strategy following the principles of GDP growth [2]; a systematic adaptation rather than a transformation. At the same time, circular economy is stated as a clear goal of the Green New Deal. We welcome the circular economy action plan and look forward to seeing clear actions being implemented this year. What is more, we ask for full commitment in the transition to a sustainable economy from all sectors. 

To reach these targets, we need a system that enables the willing, convinces the unwilling and that shows proportionate consequences for environmentally harmful practices. Both are already in place, at least on paper. Yet the EU and the member states hesitate to cut out harmful subsidies, only promising to “take a closer look” [1] at them. For example, we urge the EU to stop fossil fuel subsidies immediately, to implement a Global Carbon Tax and a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, and to apply sanctions when agreements are not met. Positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity (as mentioned in Aichi Target 3 [5]) are prerequisites for reshaping our relationship with nature. Investment priorities must be reallocated to sustainably operating organizations and companies (e.g. renewable energy, green building, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, organic farming, seed preservation and food waste prevention). Green employees try to ‘not make things worse’ [6], but we also need a generation of businesses that ‘make things better“ – restoration is possible, and much needed.

We recognize the global efforts being taken to enable citizens through education, and acknowledge that the Skills Agenda and the Youth Guarantee will be updated to enhance employ-ability in the green economy [1]. Mainstreaming knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services will increase societal awareness of consumption and empower individual decision-making for a successful transition and healthier planet. However, this approach neglects the efforts of those already trying very hard to change the planet for the better. Small businesses, grassroots movements, NGOs, and citizens have long shown their interest and skills to contribute to a healthier planet.  Most of their actions are hindered by a lack of recognition and resources.

Another important recognition is that humans are not separate from nature but a part of nature. We need policies and decision-making to embody this and recognise the importance of cooperation with and inclusion of indigenous people and local communities (IPLC). It is often the poor, the young, and the minorities who feel the greatest impact of bureaucratic decisions while having the smallest say in the matter. Their voices must be heard. The EU has the opportunity to implement this on regional and international levels and to turn from a global polluter to a global role model. We need to step up - economically, financially, and culturally. Nature is not only around us, it is within us. Reshaping our relationship with nature towards a common future calls for:

  • The mobilization of financial and legislative resources for biodiversity, especially for civil societies and small businesses, along with the elimination of incentives for harmful practices.

  • The recognition of ecosystem services as the main driver of economic and human well-being.

  • Capacity building and empowerment of women, youth, indigenous and local communities, the less fortunate and vulnerable in the decision-making process.

Read more on our specific demands to Enable:

References

[1] World Economic Forum (WEF) (2019) Nature Risk Rising: Why the Crisis Engulfing  Nature Matters for Business and the Economy. Geneva, Switzerland. 36 pages.

[2]  European Commission (2019) Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the European Green Deal. EC, Brussels, Belgium (COM/2019/640)

[3] European Commission Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV) (2012) The EU biodiversity objectives and the labour market: benefits and identification of skill gaps in the current workforce. Brussels, Belgium. 347 pages.

[4] Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (2012) Square Brackets: CBD newsletter for Civil society, issue 7. CBD Secretariat, Montreal, Canada. 32 pages.

[5] Convention on Biological Diversity (2010) The strategic plan for biodiversity 2011–2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. COP 10 Decision X/2. CBD, Montreal, Canada.

[6] International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009) The Green Jobs Programme of the ILO. International Labour Organization Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland. 12 pages.

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