How can we support the EU’s biodiversity targets by bridging the science-policy divide?
29 November 2022
On 15 November 2022, the EGU and the European Parliament Intergroup on ‘Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development’ jointly coordinated an event, ‘Supporting the EU’s Biodiversity Targets by Bridging the Science-Policy Divide’. The event bought together scientists, policymakers, NGO representatives, and representatives from the private sector to discuss where and how science could be used to support the ambitious targets outlined in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and proposed EU Nature Restoration Law.
As Jutta Paulus, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and co-host of the event highlighted, biodiversity is an essential component of many aspects of life on Earth, including human society, and even the world’s GDP. It’s not just about protecting bees or specific ecosystems, but about creating a resilient system that will support the world’s growing population, provide food and water security, and create a foundation for us to continue to build upon in the future.
However, to ensure that we can reach these targets and build a resilient future, new policies and their implementation should be underpinned and supported by the best available scientific evidence. EGU President Helen Glaves spoke about the important role that science can play in helping to define and analyse policy challenges from multiple perspectives. As an example of this of this, Glaves used the EGU Biodiversity Task Force’s response to the EU’s proposed Nature Restoration Law and the 7 key recommendations that were given from a scientific perspective.
Of course, providing scientific evidence isn’t always straight forward. The event’s first panelist, Grégoire Dubois Project Leader of the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity identified three communication dimensions – temporal, spatial, and structural – that need to be considered to effectively integrate science into policy. He stressed the need for temporal dialogue continuity between scientists, stakeholders, and policymakers at all stages of the policymaking process as well as the need to collaboratively discuss the spatial aspects of biodiversity including the potential benefits, consequences, and synergies of various land-use strategies. Lastly, he emphasised the importance of structures and knowledge management procedures, such as those provide by the Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity, to support evidence-informed policy.
“Scientists need to be aware of policy processes and the weight of their own responsibility in any publication or information.” agreed Alberto Arroyo Schnell, Head of Policy and Programme at the IUCN’s European Regional Office, about the need for scientists to consider how they communicate with policymakers “From the policy side, it is important to ensure that opportunities are provided to scientists to obtain their input and engage participation.”
Soils also took a central role in the discussion, as An Dewaele, Biodiversity Mainstreaming Specialist at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, highlighted the impact that soil degradation has on agriculture and the need to improve biodiversity not only to restore nature, but also to ensure food security. She called for scientists to provide digestible information to policymakers, but also that organisations needed to help create more opportunities for scientists and policymakers to meet to discuss the key questions.
In an answer to this call Janica Borg, Biodiversity Strategy Coordinator, European Environment Agency, outlined the role that the Agency plays in creating and interpreting data and from this, producing knowledge that is used by policymakers. She explained how this kind of action supports the work of policymakers directly, such as with supporting Member States in implementing the EU Nature Restoration Law and monitoring their progress. Seconding the need for available information, Irene Benito, Senior Manager for European Affairs of Planet, highlighted the role that Planet’s earth observation data can play in both the establishment of biodiversity targets and in their monitoring.
Drawing all the topics of the day together Felicia Akinyemi, Marie-Curie Research Fellow and EGU Biodiversity Task Force Member, highlighted the ability and willingness of the EGU Biodiversity Task Force to provide timely, relevant, and contextualised information on a range of biodiversity-relevant topics from a multidisciplinary, scientific perspective and drew attention to the need for long-term monitoring to demonstrate the benefits of actions taken to restore biodiversity. “I see the EGU Biodiversity Task Force working as an Honest Broker for scientific knowledge. We’re able to support in the provision of scientific information, in the scrutiny of scientific evidence, and in highlighting the different consequence of policy actions.”
MEP María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos responded to the panel by supporting several of the recommendations provided in the EGU Biodiversity Task Force’s response to the proposed Nature Restoration Law including the need to consult with local communities, including soil biodiversity as an additional target in nature restoration law, and strengthening the urban targets outlined in Article 6.
MEP Cesar Luena, co-host of the event and Rapporteur of the Nature Restoration file, provided some final words to motivate those participating, “Our ecosystems cannot wait any longer for us to take science-based decisions […] I would like to stress the importance of scientist’s work and engagement in the policymaking process […] Your proposals and recommendations are our guideline to implement effective policies. There is no way out of the biodiversity crisis without science.”
While this event demonstrated both the importance of bridging the science-policy divide and the willingness of those working on biodiversity-related topics to make this leap, it’s important for Europe’s scientific community to be available and willing to provide scientific information that meets the needs of policymakers. EGU’s Policy Programme will continue providing our members with resources and opportunities to engage in the policymaking process more effectively.
You can now watch and share the recording of this event here. If you would like any further information on the event, EGU’s Policy Programme, or how EGU is supporting the EU’s biodiversity targets, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The European Geosciences Union (EGU) is the leading organisation for Earth, planetary and space science research in Europe. With our partner organisations worldwide, we foster fundamental geoscience research, alongside applied research that addresses key societal and environmental challenges. Our vision is to realise a sustainable and just future for humanity and for the planet. Our 20,000 members span many key scientific areas that can enhance the policy-making process including, but not limited to, natural hazards, biodiversity, pollution, climate change, soil science and raw-material sourcing.
Established in 1994, the European Parliament Intergroup on ‘Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development brings together Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all political groups and Parliamentary Committees to find sustainable solutions to some of the greatest challenges of our time. This balanced forum of discussion allows MEPs to listen, debate and shape ideas and policies based on contributions from the different stakeholders (relevant experts, NGOs, private sector, researchers and academics) in the presence of the European Commission, EU Presidency and EU Member States.