National targets

Title Rationale Aichi targets
Objective 1 - Identify and monitor priority components of biodiversity in Belgium

In principle, the entire wealth of biodiversity should be subject to protection. It is however not feasible to concentrate efforts on all the elements of biodiversity. The Strategy will therefore focus the efforts where they are most needed, i.e. on components of biodiversity that are most at risk or could be subject to high risks in the near future. Priority components of biodiversity requiring the most urgent protective measures must be identified and their status monitored.

Priority components of biodiversity include (1) ecosystems and habitats that are unique, rare, in danger of disappearance, or that play a crucial role for priority species; (2) species that are rare, endangered, vulnerable, or that are endemic or live in specific habitats; (3) genomes and genes of particular social, scientific or economic importance; and (4) functional components of biodiversity that are essential for the provision of ecosystem services.

Adaptive management is concerned with the complex and dynamic nature of ecosystems and their uses and the absence of complete knowledge of their functioning. Because circumstances change and uncertainties are inherent in all managed uses of components of biodiversity, adaptive management is able to respond to uncertainties and it contains elements of “learning-by-doing” or research feedback. Monitoring is a key component of adaptive management.

Adequate monitoring, followed by regular reporting on status and trends of priority biodiversity components, is important. It allows adaptive management and decision-makers to develop adequate policy responses. It is also a prerequisite to communicate progress towards the 2020 targets to the public and stakeholders. Furthermore, it contributes to enhancing public awareness and participation. In order to avoid an additional reporting burden, the format of such reports should be streamlined in accordance with existing reporting obligations on biodiversity at European and CBD level.

A set of biodiversity indicators has already been adopted by the CBD to follow the implementation of the 2020 target (see box below). Several of these indicators have been tested and standardized at EU level by the European Environment Agency (set of EU headline biodiversity indicators, SEBI 2020 project) to monitor the state of biodiversity in Europe. The Member States are therefore asked to report annually to the EEA on these indicators.

Monitoring and reporting on the status of biodiversity in Belgium will need the development of suitable monitoring tools and indicators in line with the outcomes of the SEBI 2020 project (see also objective 7.3).

19.1. Knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved
Objective 1.1 - Define a common Belgian methodology for the identification and monitoring of priority components of biodiversity according to EU guidelines

So far, no methodology to identify priority elements of Belgian biodiversity is available at national level. The Regions manage biodiversity according to their own criteria and priorities. Nevertheless common standards can be developed and therefore it is useful to compare the monitoring methods of the different Regions. The methodology could consider conducting the identification of priority components of biodiversity on the basis of a bioregional approach deciding to choose components of biodiversity which are most at threat of disappearing, or species that are of particular importance for the functioning of vulnerable ecosystems, together with a number of flagship species for Belgium.

19.1. Knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved
Objective 1.2 - Identify and monitor priority species, habitats, genetic and functional components of biodiversity

Once a common methodology to identify components of biodiversity that need urgent protective measures has been agreed, lists of priority habitats, species and genetic components will be drawn up. Threatened species and ecosystems should benefit from adequate long-term policy, and the restoration of degraded habitats should favour the protection of threatened and rare species as well as the re-establishment of species that had disappeared from our country. Particular attention will be paid to wetlands that are under serious threat.

From the species conservation point of view, the loss of local populations implies a loss of genetic diversity, which in turn may result in a loss of resilience to environmental change, i.e. the ability to offer resistance to, or recover from, natural and human-induced pressures.

Lists of most sensitive (threatened, vulnerable and rare) species and ecosystems which need particular attention (included in Natura 2000 at EU level) will be used and adapted to the Belgian context. It is also important to take the specificity of Belgian ecosystems/species into account and to identify the elements of biodiversity that are rare, particularly threatened with extinction, vulnerable or of particular importance (for ecosystem functioning; symbolic importance; cultural importance) at the Belgian level. Belgian regional and national red lists of threatened species already exist and could be used for this compilation of priority species. For the marine environment, a list of priority species and habitats has been developed in an international framework (OSPAR). National red lists and related synthetic indicators are very useful for example for reporting to the EU, OECD and IUCN and other organisations.

19.1. Knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved
Objective 10 - Ensure a coherent implementation of / and between biodiversity-related commitments and agreements

There are five global “biodiversity-related conventions”: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar), and the World Heritage Convention (WHC). The two other Rio conventions (the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) are also relevant to biodiversity.

All these conventions overlap in regard to requirements for the Parties in the field of research, reporting, education and public awareness, the need for capacity-building, synthesising scientific data, the involvement of stakeholders, etc.

Furthermore, some specific biodiversity-related issues are dealt with under several conventions (for example, invasive alien species are tackled by the CBD, CITES, CMS, Ramsar and UNFCCC).

Besides these international commitments and agreements, several regional conventions and agreements relevant to biodiversity also have to be implemented (Bern Convention, Birds and Habitats Directives, AEWA, EUROBATS, etc.).

This underlines the strong need for synergies in the national implementation of these commitments to guarantee complementary and mutual reinforcement. Stronger synergies at national level will decrease duplication of effort, avoid contradiction and mean more efficient use of the available resources.

Objective 10.1 - Ensure a coherent implementation of biodiversity-related agreements to which Belgium is a Party

Belgium is a Party to most major international and regional agreements related to biodiversity. It is necessary for Belgium to ensure its continued involvement with these agreements. To this end, Belgium needs to review the status of implementation of all international agreements relevant to the protection of biodiversity and take the necessary steps to ensure their full implementation where needed. Belgium will also continue to adopt other relevant agreements when appropriate.

Objective 10.2 - Reduce overlaps, duplications or contradictions in the implementation of different biodiversity-related conventions.

The decisions of biodiversity-related conventions must be implemented in a coherent and harmonised way. To this end, Belgium needs in the first place a global view of the package of decisions related to issues crosscutting different biodiversity-related conventions (such as deforestation, sustainable use of natural resources, inland waters, climate change, etc.) in order to use and distribute its resources in an optimal fashion. This overview will also help to identify mutual obligatory actions (projects can be designed jointly) and possible conflicting actions between the different biodiversity-related conventions.

One issue particularly relevant in this context is the issue of national reporting. National reports are useful tools to evaluate the degree of implementation of international agreements and to improve implementation. However, reports rarely meet these objectives.

As the national reporting exercises for several conventions are mainly based on similar environmental data, it is important to streamline and harmonise reporting processes across different biodiversity-related conventions to allow countries to meet their reporting requirements and avoid duplication of work.

Furthermore, more communication is needed between the national focal points of biodiversity-related conventions to ensure a more coherent implementation of biodiversity-related commitments and optimise opportunities for synergies. This can be facilitated within existing institutional structures (such as steering groups within the CCIEP) but implies also the development of means at national level to enhance coordination and collaboration between biodiversity-related conventions’ focal points on planning, capacity-building, research, reporting, information systems, etc., i.e. through more sharing of information and experiences.

Objective 10.3 - All climate change, biodiversity and desertification cooperation projects funded by Belgium should be assessed to ensure that they are mutually supportive of the objectives of the three Rio conventions.

The three Rio conventions address a number of common substantive and procedural issues. For example, measures to reduce negative impacts from deforestation are relevant to the implementation of the three conventions. Each of these conventions calls for capacity-building, scientific and technical cooperation, the development of specific national plans and strategies, periodic reporting, etc.

The rising impact of climate change on biodiversity as well as the effects of some actions to combat climate change may be relevant to the objectives of the CBD. On the other hand, protection of biodiversity can contribute to climate change mitigation (healthy forests, peat lands and other habitats can limit atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations by storing carbon) and can protect against natural hazards aggravated by climate change.

Desertification has significant impacts on biodiversity. It leads to decreasing soil productivity, has an impact on the hydrological cycle, has the potential to cause local extinction of wild species, etc.

It is important to check that projects initiated by Belgium are in line with the objectives and recommendations of the three Rio conventions. Indeed, numerous climate change, biodiversity or desertification projects face challenges beyond those of a single sector project.

For example, initiatives such as reforestation, adaptation and Clean Development Mechanism projects, as foreseen in the Kyoto Protocol in the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, may have significant impacts on biodiversity and should be designed to enhance biodiversity or, at least, avoid negative impacts on biodiversity (for example by planting multiple species of native trees rather than monospecific plantations of exotic species). Supporting biodiversity to adapt to climate change is fundamental as well as enhancing positive effects of climate change mitigation measures to strengthen biodiversity’s resilience. But preventing and minimising potential negative impacts from certain climate change mitigation measures are as important, such as promotion and development of bio fuels and other forms of renewable energy sources. The external dimension of the relation between climate change and biodiversity should therefore be emphasised.

Therefore, Belgium will develop mechanisms to assess that projects initiated in the framework of one of the Rio conventions are in line with the requirements of the other two.

Objective 11 - Ensure continued and effective international cooperation for the protection of biodiversity.

The protection of biodiversity is a global issue and is best tackled through multilateral cooperation. This is underlined by the CBD stressing the need for countries to cooperate in order to ensure the protection of Earth's biodiversity.

The Millennium Development Goals provide the framework for the entire United Nations system to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women. Biodiversity plays an important role in ensuring that the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (and in goal 1 ‘Combating poverty and hunger’, Goal 6 ‘Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases’, and goal 7 ‘Ensuring environmental sustainability’) for sustainable development are successfully achieved.

The Clearing-House Mechanism is an important tool for the exchange of information and for promoting and facilitating scientific and technical cooperation.

Belgium has developed interregional and bilateral cooperation with countries in its immediate vicinity for an integrated management of transboundary ecosystems.

Also through its development cooperation, Belgium promotes the sustainability of the environment as a crosscutting issue, in which biodiversity is considered.

Biodiversity loss has direct effects on economic development and especially on the livelihood of people in developing countries. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report (2006) has shown that negative impacts of biodiversity loss and diminution of the benefits arising out of ecosystem services will mainly harm the world's poorest people, who are the least able to adjust to these changes. Intact ecosystems in protected areas provide clean water, food security, and medicine and help prevent natural disasters.

Tackling the loss of biodiversity in those countries will be essential to achieving poverty reduction and sustainable development. Furthermore most developing countries play a crucial role in the conservation of global biodiversity, as they still possess areas with a natural environment and a high biodiversity. All partner countries of Belgian Development Cooperation have also signed the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as many other biodiversity-related agreements. Belgium needs to continue supporting their efforts to respect and implement their commitments under these conventions.

Belgium has already taken some initiatives through its development cooperation policy to improve synergies between MEAs in general and for their synergetic implementation in partner countries.

Objective 11.1 - Gain a comprehensive view of all cooperation and interregional projects supported by Belgium.

Belgium is cooperating with developing countries in a broad range of activities and is also involved in several interregional projects. For the moment, no instrument can give an overview of all the projects supported by Belgium. As some of these projects can and will have an impact on biodiversity, it would be helpful to develop a mechanism where information about these initiatives is collected. This would enable the various authorities to have an overview of all the initiatives supported by the different authorities in Belgium and their potential impact on biodiversity. Furthermore, there is need to evaluate whether environment criteria have effectively been taken into account in cooperation projects.

Objective 11.2 - All programmes and projects funded in partner countries have an ex ante environmental assessment procedure, ranging, as appropriate, from environmental screening to full environmental impact assessment or strategic environmental assessm

All Belgium’s development cooperation projects will be more systematically assessed prior to the decision to allocate funds so that potential negative impacts on the biodiversity of recipient countries can be identified at an early stage and be avoided or mitigated. A screening procedure should be systematically applied and, when it proves necessary, a full Environmental Impact Assessment* (EIA) carried out.

Broader strategic approaches, such as “Indicative Cooperation Programmes, “Country Strategic Papers” or “Sector-Wide Approaches” (SWAP), etc., should be subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment* (SEA) that includes biodiversity considerations.

Both EIAs and SEAs should be performed by using the existing assessment systems of the recipient country as much as possible. Joint EIAs or SEAs by several donors will be encouraged whenever possible.

Furthermore, ex post evaluations of development cooperation programmes or projects should also integrate biodiversity considerations, even in projects/programmes that are not related to natural resources.

3. Incentives reformed