Last week the European Commission adopted its latest strategy to address the ongoing loss of biodiversity and destruction of the natural world. There was much talk of a green recovery as the Union takes its first, tentative steps to recover from the initial wave of Covid-19.
In addition to being ready to cope with another pandemic, there was wide acceptance of the need to build societies' resilience to future threats such as climate change impacts, forest fires, food insecurity or disease outbreaks, including by protecting wildlife and fighting illegal wildlife trade.
The new plan for wildlife is called the 'EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030'. As other plans have had limited success to date, the new plan is the most comprehensive and ambitious one yet for protecting nature and reversing the degradation of ecosystems.
A core part of the European Green Deal, the new Biodiversity Strategy has four main elements. First, it is committed to expanding the existing network of protected areas on land and at sea, with strict protection for areas of high biodiversity and climate value.
Second, it makes a concrete commitment to restore wildlife areas that were degraded in the past and to manage them sustainably.
Third, it recognises that 'paper protection' by Member States is meaningless and sets out measures for a new, strengthened governance framework to ensure better implementation and tracking of progress.
And fourth, it seeks to demonstrate on the global stage that the EU is ready to lead by example towards the successful adoption of an ambitious global biodiversity framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Ireland has great scope for improvement. The target set by the EU for us to protect the part of the Union's marine waters that we are responsible for was 10% by 2020; we achieved 2.4%. The bar is now set at 30% by 2030 so, if we are to keep up, transformative change is required in the way we manage our seas and very extensive exclusive economic zone with its amazing cold-water coral reefs.
With regard to protected areas on land, many have very admirable and detailed conservation objectives on paper, but few have management plans setting out the actual measures that need to be taken on the ground to achieve the paper objectives.
The 'EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030' is the most ambitious plan yet to try to halt the ongoing loss of biodiversity and the destruction of the natural world.