Portuguese Presidency of the Council of The European Union

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Portugal will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first six months of 2021 – what does this mean for nature?

Portugal takes over the presidency from Germany with the motto ‘Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery’. The following three priorities have been set:

  • To promote a recovery leveraged by the climate and digital transitions;
  • To implement the European Pillar of Social Rights of the European Union as a distinctive element for ensuring a fair and inclusive climate and digital transition;
  • To strengthen Europe’s autonomy whilst remaining open to the world, taking a leading role in climate action and promoting a digital transformation in the service of people.

Positively, climate is mentioned throughout, so what are some pillar moments during Portugal’s presidency?

Portugal’s premise

2021 promises to become a big year for nature and climate, with important events planned for the coming months. Portugal’s aim is therefore to put climate high on the agenda:

Climate change will be of particular importance, as well as the consequent need to make the economy of the European Union more sustainable, in line with the vision and strategy defined in the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement, while also bearing in mind the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Source

The country itself has taken quite a few steps towards a more sustainable future, like carbon neutrality by 2050 and the National Energy and Climate Plan, which established national goals for renewable energy, energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The commitments Portugal makes as it takes on the presidency, will be in line with their national commitments. You can read them all here.

Big moments

During the upcoming six months, there are some decisive moments for the Council that will show if Portugal can deliver on their premise. One of them being the approval of the European climate law. Portugal aims at bringing the European Climate Law into action during their term:

I’m quite sure that during the presidency we will have the law approved. It’s our big priority for the semester.

said João Pedro Matos Fernandes, the Portuguese minister for environment and climate action. This would be a big step in the right direction, as it would make the EU’s climate targets irreversible.

When the European climate law is approved, the next step will be the Fit for 55 Package, which is part of the Green Deal. The package is aimed at reaching Europe’s climate targets for 2030. It will cover the whole range of EU climate and energy laws. On this Fernandes said: “We have to go further than what we did in the past … When we did it in the past, we didn’t exactly have a goal”. Now, with clear goals for 2050, he hopes a consensus will be easier to reach.

Additionally, new strategies are on the agenda, like the European Commission’s Chemical Strategy for Sustainability, an updated Industrial Strategy for Europe, the EU Climate Adaptation Strategy, the Soil Strategy and the EU Forest Strategy, for which the Presidency will start preparing a response. To measure Portugal’s performance, the European Environmental Bureau has created “Ten Green Tests to make a difference”, you can check them out here.  

In short: there is a lot coming up! EUROPARC and it’s Brussels office will follow all developments with great interest, represent Protected Areas and report on all developments – so stay tuned.

The One Planet Summit and the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People

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On the 11th of January, the One Planet Summit was held in which more than 50 countries announced their commitment to protect 30% of land and sea before 2030. This is a key milestone that will set the tone for 2021.

The one Planet Summit is a platform for commitments to combat climate change. It started in 2017, two years after the Paris Agreements were signed with the idea to make stronger and more concrete commitments and to mobilise funding.

This year’s summit was hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in Marseille and was mainly focused on biodiversity. Nevertheless, there were many other topics, such as the COVID-19 crisis, the climate crisis and the fact that none of the Aichi targets were met. It was stressed that biodiversity decline is linked to so many other issues.  Moreover, this summit precedes the future COP15 for Nature in Kunming, and COP 26 in Glasgow which means it has the opportunity to set the bar for higher environmental ambitions.

When we lose forests, we don’t ‘just’ lose green space or natural habitat. We lose a key ally in our fight against climate change. – Ursula von der Leyen

The event was split up in four themes: the protection of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, agro-ecology, funding for biodiversity, and the link between deforestation, species and human health. For each theme, leaders addressed concerns and presented initiatives. Major initiatives were the ‘Great Green Wall’ which aims to create a green horizontal ‘belt’ below the African Deserts to prevent desertification and provide ecosystem services such as drinking water and tillable soil and the Mediterranean cooperation to facilitate ecological transition.

One Planet Summit 2021 Marseilles

One planet Summit 2021 in Marseilles

Financial commitments

Furthermore, the initiatives were strengthened by financial commitments from several leaders. Emmanuel Macron, promised to earmark 30% of it’s climate funding to ‘nature-based solutions’, Boris Johnson promised 3 billion pounds to be spent on nature and biodiversity and Justin Trudeau committed up to 44 million dollars to the UN’s land degradation neutrality fund. Moreover, the world bank promised to spend 35% of their budget on climate co-benefits. These financial commitments are severely needed as UN research found that an additional 700 billion dollars are needed yearly to reverse human endorsed environmental degradation.

The most important commitment of this day was the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People. More than 50 countries joined this coalition to express the ambition to protect over 30% of land and sea by 2030. This ambition is necessary to protect species, biodiversity and ecosystem services and to reach other environmental targets like the Paris Agreements. Reaching these targets will in its turn have social and economic benefits for societies worldwide. Costa Rica, France and the United Kingdom co-chair this initiative.

France hopes to protect 30% of their terrestrial and marine areas by 2030 and of course we will be buttressing our efforts over the three coming years mobilising many young people also through the civilian service which we are setting up. We will of course be allocating additional resources to that end. – Emmanuel Macron

EUROPARC Federation warmly welcomes these coalitions and targets and will follow them with interest to see what tangible actions will soon follow these promises.

For more information about the One Planet Summit, click here.

For more information about the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, click here.

Some dates to save in 2021!

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In 2021 the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss continues – with Protected Areas being at the forefront! To keep up-to-date, here are some events to mark in your calendar for 2021.

Happy new year from everyone at the EUROPARC Federation! To start the year of right we present some important nature related events and dates happening in January. Additionally, below you will find here some major events happening in 2021, so save the date!

11th of January: One Planet Summit for Biodiversity

France, with the United Nations and the World Bank, is organizing a ‘One Planet Summit’ for biodiversity on 11 January 2021 online. The Summit will bring together heads of state and government, leaders of international organizations, financial institutions, companies and NGOs, all ready to demonstrate that their commitments are leading to concrete actions to preserve and restore biodiversity, and to lead systemic transformations of our economies.

12th of  January: Conference #3 on Nature rights 

More than ever, human rights are being violated because of the destruction of nature and we have to work towards the recognition of nature rights as a condition and a tool for the respect and protection of human rights. Recognizing the rights of these ecosystems appear as a way to reinforce, behind nature’s protection, those of human rights and extend fundamental rights of all citizens.

14th of January: Stakeholder Workshop ‘Measuring the success of the CAP in achieving sustainability

The online workshop aims to engage stakeholders to assess the future data needs necessitated by reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, Green Deal, Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategy. The particular focus is on broadening the range of sustainability indicators (economic, environmental and social) used to assess progress towards a more sustainable food system and evaluate policy associated with the sector.

25th & 26th of January: Climate Adaptation Summit

The online international Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) 2021 on 25 and 26 January, hosted by the Netherlands, convenes global leaders and local stakeholders. It will see the launch of a comprehensive Adaptation Action Agenda that sets out clear commitments to deliver concrete new endeavours and partnerships to make our world more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Events to look out for this year

17th -30th of May: COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference

The fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will review the achievement and delivery of the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. It is also anticipated that the final decision on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework will be taken, together with decisions on related topics including capacity building and resource mobilization.

24th of May: European Day of Parks

The European Day of Parks is a commemorative day for Protected Areas across Europe that was launched in 1999 by the EUROPARC Federation to celebrate Protected Areas throughout Europe. It celebrates the creation of the 1st National Parks in Europe – a set of nine parks created in Sweden in 1909. This year’s theme is “Parks – The Next Generation“. We welcome Protected Areas to look at what lessons they have learned from COVID-19 and how we can apply them. It is time to refresh and rethink what parks offer, to adapt to new methods of communication, new infrastructures and new visitors. Of course, when thinking about a next generation of parks, youth involvement is absolutely essential – on all levels of parks management – as they are the next generation of nature professionals! More info is soon to follow.

31st of May – 4th of June: EU Green Week

The European Green Week 2021 will be dedicated to the ‘zero pollution ambition’. It will also look at other relevant European Green Deal initiatives, such the climate initiatives, the upcoming Chemicals Strategy, as well as initiatives in the field of energy, industry, mobility, agriculture, fisheries, health and biodiversity. EU Green Week 2021 will be an opportunity to engage with all stakeholders and interested citizens on how we can work together to make the ambition for a zero pollution and toxic-free environment a reality.

3rd – 11th of September: IUCN World Conservation Congress

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the congress was postponed in 2020 and is now scheduled to take place in 2021. The IUCN Congress brings scientific and technical experts to the table with political and private sector leaders to show how getting nature right can help achieve climate objectives and the vision of a more prosperous, healthy and equitable world by 2030.

4th – 8th of October: The EUROPARC Conference 2021

Of course there will be a EUROPARC Conference again in 2021, hopefully once again face to face! If the situation allows, we will meet in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands for the biggest event for Protected Area Professionals in Europe. This year we will pay “Tribute to our Landscape. Where nature and people meet in harmony“. During the conference, we will celebrate the beauty and diversity of the versatile European natural and cultural landscapes: we recognise the impact of humans on the landscape and will also discuss the dis-harmony that exists. Registration will be opened from 13th of May.

1st – 12th of November: COP26 UN Climate Change Conference

The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the summit, delegates including heads of state, climate experts and negotiators will come together to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change. As well as the negotiations, there will also be space for countries, international organisations and other delegates to showcase climate action, highlight diverse climate change issues and share knowledge.

And much more!

Listed here is only a small selection of nature related events taking place in 2021. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date!