Protecting biodiversity: nature restoration targets under EU Biodiversity Strategy
Feedback from Jernkontoret - The Swedish Steel Producers' Association
We welcome the initiative from the Commission on EU nature restoration targets and look forward to engaging in the process of developing these targets within the framework of the Green Deal.
The Swedish steel industry continues to work to integrate ecosystem services in the operations, as well as carrying out local activities in adjacent areas to an industrial site or on-site, that lead to an increase in the biological diversity. Jernkontoret is participating in the development of ecosystem tools in Sweden since more than ten years. The Swedish steel industry is also working to achieve the UN’s global goal no 15 (Sustainable Development Goals, SDG) concerning the preservation of ecosystem services (benefits provided by ecosystems) and preventing the loss of biological diversity, as well as in the development of tools to navigate through Agenda 2030 as a whole. In addition, Jernkontoret supports companies in the application and introduction of ecosystem services in their operations. The purpose is to strengthen and systematize activities in companies that lead to an increase in the biological diversity.
While the European Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 stands out for its holistic approach (integrated and whole-of-society approach) within the frame of the Green Deal, we think it is equally important that the coming process of developing EU nature restoration targets effectively involves the European society as a whole, including all relevant stakeholders that both depend on and impact biodiversity. This would make Europe's voice even stronger at the 15th Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and is essential in order to reverse the current negative trends of loss of biodiversity.
Planetary boundaries defining "a safe operating space" should be the starting point for any of the strategies, actions, or targets that aim at restoring nature. To this end, the interaction between loss of biodiversity with its necessary restoration measures, and other global challenges of equal or higher magnitude (i.e. surpassing a given planetary boundary) such as climate change need to be considered. Otherwise, even the most ambitious targets for nature restoration can lead to suboptimisation of other ecological and social areas. To this end also note that Agenda 2030 can help harmonizing biodiversity policies, conventions, and legislation with other environmental legislation and prevent incoherence between different legislation.
We would like to raise the importance of securing a safe balance between conservation of unique biomes and creating nature in by man-impacted sites. This means that the scope for working to increase biodiversity needs to be broadened to include areas outside national parcs and natural reserves, for example industrial areas, urban areas/cities, private land.
The restoration of degraded ecosystems as set out in B. needs to incorporate the concept of resilience in the monitoring and reporting schemes that are developed. These efforts should also be harmonized with the same notion of resilience used in major EU legislations such as the Water Framework directive, the Soil strategy, and nature legislation. In other words, focus should lie on restoring degraded ecosystems to become resilient enough to withstand current climate change impact and to generate essential ecosystem services.
Regarding methodology linked to biodiversity and business engagement, science-based targets is an interesting methodology to be used and considered for the inclusion of business initiatives in increasing biodiversity, current under development. Another method, used by the industry, is based on how each business/stakeholder/industry impact and are impacted by biodiversity. By identifying which are the ecosystem services that the business/stakeholder/industry impact and which are the ecosystem services that this business depends on (the so-called Ecosystems Services Review, ESR), this helps identifying the critical ecosystem services that need to be prioritized.
All in all, it is important to apply a functional approach on biodiversity to open for new initiatives that contribute to preserving and increasing biodiversity. An example would be that of steel companies that within their industrial area create "new nature", or green areas, and thereby "new" biodiversity, thus accounting for areas situated outside natural parc territory. This is already seen on site for several of our member companies. We already raised (within the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030) the need to consider the functionality of biodiversity, i.e. looking not only at protection and preservation, but also at a sustainable use of biodiversity when it comes to setting and implementing EU nature restoration targets. However, within the key actions to be taken by the Commission (annex to the communication on EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, COM(2020)380 final, there is no mention of such actions.
Key to success in setting and reaching targets of nature restoration is openness and flexibility towards developing and implementing new methods to strengthen biodiversity on-site or in "real life" (IRL). Focus should not be on detailed investigations to prove long-term measurable results, but rather combining efficient methods of restoration with sustainable land- and water use (linked to the comment on functional biodiversity above).
To maintain the systemic perspective of the EU Biodiversity strategy, it is necessary to analyze whether already existing legislation associated with nature and biodiversity need to improve, for example in terms of policy coherence.
The process of defining nature restoration targets needs to be carried out in close collaboration between MS authorities, municipal actors, academia, and business/ private stakeholders, and furthermore extend beyond agriculture and forestry sectors to include other activity sectors.
Finally, it is important that the Commission considers all social and economic implications from implementing legally binding instruments, before setting targets.
- Case study of a Swedish tool steel company undergoing a transition from traditional environmental management practices to an enterprise identifying its place as part of a social-ecological system. The Corporate Ecosystem Services Review (ESR) was utilized by the company to begin this process by focusing on ecosystem services to determine how an ESR approach contributes to environmental management in practice. Please see: www.jernkontoret.se/sv/publicerat/forskning/oppna-rapporter-serie-d/d-854/
- Handbook on integrating an ecosystem perspective in the steel industry - aimed primarily at steel companies, with the potential to inspire other industries as well - Swedish handbook that analyzes and maps prioritized ecosystem services and guides the company on how to integrate these in existing work - result of partnership between business, consultants, and research institutes, please see: www.jernkontoret.se/sv/publicerat/handbocker-och-utbildningskompendier/handbok-ekosystemperspektiv/
- Handbook for the mining and steel sector to use potential and methods for biodiversity and ecosystem services during production and after closing of production sites, in cooperation with Enetjärn Natur AB, and the Swedish Association of Mines, Minerals and Metal Producers (Svemin). Please see: www.jernkontoret.se/en/energy--environment/ekosystemtjanster-och-biologisk-mangfald/
- A cross-industry network of biodiversity and strategic business development, this network cooperates on issues related to ecosystem services, biodiversity, natural capital and how all these can benefit business development. Please see: www.businessandbiodiversity.se