The European Commission—the executive branch of the EU—has committed to reducing the use of chemical pesticides by 50 percent by 2030.
A new 10-year-plan, which is part of the European Green Deal, includes a commitment to reverse the decline in bees and other pollinators. It lays out commitments to reduce the use of pesticides, as well as plant 3 billion trees by 2030.
It has also committed to protecting 30 percent of the EU’s land and oceans; one-third of these protected areas will be under strict protection rules. This means there should be very minimal human intervention and only when required for the benefit of the wildlife. Currently, 3 percent of land and 1 percent of the ocean is under strict protection.
The European Commission aims to raise €18 billion per year to fund the new plan.
According to the European Food Safety Authority—an EU agency that provides independent scientific advice on food chain risks—beekeepers in western European countries like France, Belgium, and Switzerland have reported bees and colonies have declined over the past ten to 15 years.
The European Parliament says this could threaten 76 percent of all food production in Europe, which relies on pollination.
In 2018, the EU banned the outdoor use of the three main neonicotinoid insecticides—clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam.
The Importance of Bees
Bees play a vital role in the environment, as well as the global economy.
The vast majority of plants that humans eat depend on pollination. It helps plants flourish, grow, and produce food. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, bees pollinate 71 percent of crop species that provide 90 percent of the world’s food.
Despite their importance, many human activities threaten bees. These include industrial agriculture, car fumes, and pesticide use.
‘A Huge Sense of Déjà Vu’
Environmentalists have welcomed the new plan to protect pollinators and the rest of Europe’s wildlife. But many remain skeptical about whether the European Commission will follow through.
Paul de Zylva, a nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told the Guardian: “it’s good to see ambition to extend protected areas, boost tree cover, cut pesticide use, and to bring back species in decline.”
“But there is a huge sense of déjà vu reading this latest strategy because many of the same ambitions have been set out, and not delivered, by previous nature plans,” he added. “Europe can’t afford another decade of failure to protect and restore our natural world.”