The European Environment Agency (EEA) presented a new report on the on the state of biodiversity today in Athens, urging businesses and governments to embrace “eco-system accounting” policies or risk degradation of food and water supplies.
More than 230 environmental chiefs, as well as trade associations, non-governmental organizations and lobby groups have gathered for a two-day conference to discuss the report’s findings – species and habitats across the continent in poor condition and the risks of extinction increasing.
The report’s new figures show that eight out of 10 habitats and half of species given the highest level of European protection are in an “unfavorable” condition. EEA’s executive director, Jacqueline McGlade stressed how these losses threaten to undermine the vital services we receive thanks to ecosystems, such as clean water and fertile soils.
In her keynote address today, McGlade said that if biodiversity loss went on unchecked, the resulting disaster would be ‘on a par with the current financial crisis’.
‘Much of our economy in Europe relies on the fact we have natural resources underpinning everything,’ said McGlade. ‘The losses of wildlife and habitat are a threat to being able to live sustainably within the environment in the future and some of the losses are irreversible.’
European environment commissioner Stavros Dimas, who is worried that the European commission has failed to meet its pledge to halt biodiversity loss by 2010, called the Athens conference.
Reforms to be put to the conference in Athens include better management of protected areas, which now make up more than 17% of the European Union territory; targets for economic sectors, such as transport, to ensure they do not have a negative impact on the environment; and more work on putting a “value” on ecosystem services so conservationists can argue their case against developers, said McGlade.