EU environment ministers yesterday adopted conclusions on the EU 2020 biodiversity strategy, tabled by the Commission on 3 May, but were unable to endorse 20 concrete measures accompanying six headline targets proposed by the EU executive.
After a lively public debate on the draft conclusions, ministers rubber-stamped the strategy, together with its targets, as "a key instrument to enable the EU to reach its overall 2020 headline target" (see 'Background').
But instead of backing the 20 measures, the Council conclusions stress "the need to further discuss the actions in order to ensure the effective and coherent implementation of the strategy".
Some countries, including Italy and Denmark, even refused to endorse the strategy's targets and said they would table unilateral statements making clear their delegations' views on the matter.
Italy's statement notes that the yesterday's conclusions "do not involve any automatic support to the targets set out in that strategy, which will require further in-depth discussion".
Danish Environment Minister Karen Ellemann stressed that the Council had not had enough time to properly assess the six targets, the 20 actions or their financial implications, since the strategy had only been tabled six weeks ago by the EU executive.
She also said it was not clear exactly what the Commission and member states would do, neither was it clear how much the proposed targets and actions would cost them.
Italy, meanwhile, said the "financial implications need further careful consideration" and warned: "We have to be careful what we sign up to."
Bulgarian Environment Minister Nona Karadzhova remarked that restoring biodiversity would be very expensive and pointed out that since one third of Bulgarian territory was part of the Natura network of protected sites, implementation of the proposed biodiversity strategy would require a lot of money.
Denmark's Ellemann warned the EU not to repeat past mistakes, arguing that the bloc failed to reach its 2010 biodiversity goals because it had never really agreed on their meaning, had never genuinely subscribed to them and never discussed ways to finance them.
Austria, Denmark and the UK stressed the need to consider options for funding biodiversity through the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), highlighting the policy's second pillar as an ideal instrument for delivering a range of environmental outcomes, including biodiversity.