This speech was originally published on the European Commission.


Speech by Commissioner Vella:

Dear Chair, dear Pascal,

dear Honourable Members,

It is a pleasure for me to attend this newly constituted committee. And I have asked my colleagues from DG ENV to also engage with you actively – [for example] on chemicals this morning, and tomorrow on deforestation and on the 2019 Environmental Implementation Review.

The fact that it is now the biggest EP committee, is in my view a very important symbol of the importance the EP attaches to the protection of our planet.

And this decision came at the right moment, when – more than ever – our young generation takes the initiative and asks from us as policymakers more decisive action on environmental issues.

When I had my parliamentary hearing before this committee 5 years ago, I ended my conclusions with the saying: “We do not inherit the planet from our parents but we borrow it from our children.” And indeed, we need to do everything possible to pass the planet on in a better situation that we inherited it.

We are facing two of the defining challenges of our civilisation – climate change and biodiversity loss. The decline of nature is unprecedented in human history. We are in the midst of a 6th mass extinction. We are at risk of losing over one million species due to unsustainable human activities. We are at risk of irreversible knock-on effects.

Biodiversity and climate change are closely connected. This is crystal-clear in the IPCC 1.5-degree report and the recent IPBES global assessment. What is even clearer is that without drastically curbing biodiversity and ecosystem loss, the Paris Agreement objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals will be impossible to achieve.

Time is of the essence. The IPBES Assessment confirmed that global biodiversity loss continues at an unprecedented rate. At the same time, as disturbing images, such as those of the Amazon forest on fire, continue to project the harsh reality of climate change and biodiversity loss, mounting public anxiety is steering unprecedented demand for political action. The latest Eurobarometer puts environment amongst the top five concerns of EU citizens – even above unemployment!

We must seize the opportunity to respond boldly to this call for urgent and transformative change across policy fields.

The main drivers have not changed – but despite all efforts, our actions have to date proven insufficient to halt biodiversity decline. According to IPBES, much of this can be attributed to a lack of mainstreaming of biodiversity in other policies.

The EU must lead global action by example. If we want to be credible internationally, we must showcase the measures we take at home…”

Read on at: European Commission.