Biodiversity policy: A change of focus

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An effective operational top-down policy framework is important to guide bottom-up initiatives, for example by setting goals or limits, but it is not enough. Top-down implementation of a system of protected sites and species has not halted biodiversity loss – as is recognised in, for instance, the European Union’s Biodiversity 2020 and Green Infrastructure strategies, and in the CBD’s Aichi targets.

The necessity to continue investing in the systems for species and habitats protection is clear, and finishing the Natura 2000 system is for instance still the first target of the European Commission’s Biodiversity Strategy 2020. But especially in its other targets the strategy now changes focus to a much more integrated approach to conservation, which also targets the biodiversity outside protected areas and seeks to ‘mainstream’ biodiversity concerns across all policy areas, including agriculture, forestry and urban planning.The Green Infrastructure (GI) Strategy is one of the main instruments for this integrated approach.

The new focus is mainly based on awareness of the services ecosystems provide, the dependency of those services on biodiversity, and the importance of biodiversity conservation for their restoration and protection of their sustainable use.

Our findings show that the success of this approach largely depends on convincing actors at all levels of the necessity and benefits of protecting and investing in biodiversity, and of the active role they themselves need to play in this process.