The EU kicked off ‘a new deal for pollinators’ on Tuesday, renewing a 2018 initiative and following up on a citizens’ movement as one in three bee, butterfly, and hoverfly species are currently disappearing.
With around 80% of crop and wild-flowering plants depending on animal pollination, the insects’ loss is seen as one of the largest threats to the EU.
“Our citizens continuously call for decisive action at the EU level,” Stella Kyriakides, EU commissioner for health and food safety, said at the launch of the initiative.
“We know that the overuse of, and overreliance on, pesticides present a threat to our food security, to farm profitability, to biodiversity and to our environment,” she added.
The initiative is in line with the recently adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which includes a global target to reduce the risk from pesticides by at least 50% by 2030.
It also complements the European Commission’s proposal for an EU nature restoration law that is currently being scrutinised by legislators.
The revised EU Pollinators Initiative sets objectives for 2030 and establishes three priorities, the key one being improving pollinator conservation and tackling the causes of their decline.
Actions include better conservation and restoration of species and habitats, mitigating the impact of pesticide use, enhancing pollinator habitats in urban areas, and tackling the impacts on pollinators of climate change.
The initiative will also focus on improving knowledge of pollinator decline, its causes and consequences. A mapping of key pollinator areas is also expected by 2025.
Finally, the new deal wants to mobilise society and promote better planning through national strategies. It tasks both the Commission and EU member states to work on raising public awareness and supporting citizen science.
Additional focus will be put on ending the practise of granting extraordinary agricultural permits that exempt states from pesticide controls.
This comes after an EU Court ruled last Thursday that countries should no longer be allowed temporary exemptions for banned, bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides, practically ending half of all those derogations.
“The EU has one of the strictest regulatory systems in the world concerning the approval of pesticides and this includes provisions to protect bees and other insects,” said Virginijus Sinkevicius, the EU’s environment commissioner, during a press conference.
Sinkevicius told reporters that “the Commission will strengthen the current risk assessment of pesticides for bees, with the aim to ensure that pesticides allowed in the EU do not pose a threat to bees”.
He added that “of course the Commission will continue monitoring emergency authorisation granted by member states for pesticides that are harmful for pollinators”.
“Emergency permits are not authorisations and are not justified, so the Commission will adopt decisions prohibiting member states from repeating them,” the commissioner said.
Asked about a possible ban on international trade of pesticides similar to nicotine, he said: “we are monitoring, at the moment I cannot say that the legislation will be exactly changed, because we still need to undergo the impact assessment”.
Upon today’s launch, the Commission passes the baton to the bloc’s Parliament and the Council to endorse the new actions.
Member states will have to comply with a legally binding target of reversing the decline of pollinator populations by 2030. To do so, they will need national restoration plans due to be set up under the proposed nature restoration law.
Later this year, the Commission will also respond to the campaign ‘Save bees and farmers’ with a dedicated communication.
By Emanuela Barbiroglio – email@example.com