National targets

Title Rationale Aichi targets
Objective 4.8.1 - Apply CBD tools to monitor and control the impact of tourism on biodiversity, in particular in protected areas.

Ideally, the conception of tourism in protected areas should be one of environmentally responsible travel to and visiting of natural areas, promoting conservation, having a low visitor impact, and providing for positive active socio-economic involvement on the part of local populations.

As protected habitats with high biodiversity value are becoming popular tourism destinations, tools (such as environmental impact assessments) and methods (such as the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum* and the Limits of Acceptable Change*) should be used in order to balance the frequency and (possible) impacts of the visits in protected areas against the carrying capacity of the area. In vulnerable ecosystems, based on these methodologies, relevant background information and application of the ecosystem approach, tourism should be restricted and where necessary prevented. These tools and methods should be equally applicable to any tourism activities and development that may have an impact on biodiversity in geographical locations and tourist destinations at all levels (including areas that are neither protected nor vulnerable).

11. Protected areas increased and improved
Objective 5 - Improve the integration of biodiversity concerns into all relevant sectoral policies

As biodiversity touches upon almost all economic sectors, the protection of biodiversity cannot be achieved only through environmental policies. Biodiversity must become the base of an integrated economic and social development. The link between social policies (like job creation) and biodiversity needs to be emphasized too, as well as the impact of biodiversity loss on human well-being and health in particular. A major cause of biodiversity loss is the implementation of a number of sectoral and horizontal policies that affect ecosystems and species (cf. Chapter 3 Part I.4 Threats).

The necessity of incorporating into other policies the objective of halting the loss of biodiversity between now and 2020, given the importance of biodiversity for certain economic sectors, was underlined by the Council Conclusions of the European Council in March 2005.

The Belgian Biodiversity Strategy needs to be clearly articulated with the future national Strategy on Sustainable Development as the protection of biodiversity is an essential condition for sustainable development as well as with the actual Belgian programme of structural reform (Lisbon Strategy 2005-2008).

The impact of sectoral activities on biodiversity must be taken into consideration and biodiversity actors should be consulted. This implies that biodiversity concerns must be taken into account during the development and implementation of all relevant sectoral plans, programmes, legislation and policies that may have an impact on biodiversity.

There is also a need to assist administrations and different departments in developing competence and expertise in dealing with biodiversity issues in their own area of influence. Biodiversity is an important socio-economic asset and integration of biodiversity concerns in sectoral policies also benefits the sector as it encourages a more sustainable use of this resource.

Several sectors are particularly important with regard to biodiversity: spatial planning has a major impact on biodiversity, as it can play a major role in habitat fragmentation and can cause uncontrolled development pressures on biodiversity; industry, transport and energy sectors can have global and regional impacts on biodiversity through climate change and acidification, and furthermore can have a local impact through habitat fragmentation, destruction of habitats and disturbance of wildlife; etc. The 2020 objective will only be achieved when all the relevant sectors integrate consideration for biodiversity in their plans and policy.

Specific attention also needs to be given to the involvement of the private sector in biodiversity issues. Furthermore, companies and industries possess relevant knowledge, technological resources and research and communication skills, which, if mobilised, could play an important role in the protection of biodiversity.

According to the subsidiarity principle, the lowest appropriate level has to take efficient and effective action. Therefore, regional and local authorities should be involved in coordinating and facilitating such actions where possible. The use of participative approaches can here be helpful.

Fundamental social and economic processes in society are the key underlying drivers of environmental change. Demographics, consumption and production patterns, scientific and technological innovation, economic demand, markets and trade, institutional and socio-political frameworks and value systems all play a part in determining the impact that humans have on the natural world. This impact is expressed through a number of direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, the most important of which are habitat degradation and land use change, overexploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change.

Objective 5 of the NBS is the backbone of achieving sectoral integration of biodiversity concerns and engaging stakeholders in the delivery of the NBS. Important updates have been done hereunder.

Objective 5.1 - Promote and support stakeholder involvement inter alia through partnerships at all levels of decision-making relating to biodiversity.

Stakeholders (Regional, Federal and local authorities, farmers, fishermen, conservationists, natural resource managers, foresters, the private sector, researchers, non-governmental organisations, etc.) must all be able to have a say in the decisions affecting biodiversity. The Aarhus Convention (Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters) grants rights to the public and imposes obligations on public authorities regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice. Belgium signed this convention on 25 June 1998 and ratified it on 23 January 2003.

Individual behaviours need to be addressed, as individuals are biodiversity actors that need to be responsabilized. Specific methodology needs therefore to be developed.

Partnerships that actively link stakeholders should be developed in order to share information and expertise and promote positive linkages between biodiversity and other sectors. This implies consultation and collaboration between and within the different authorities and stakeholders in the field. Participation by the different stakeholders will increase their cooperation and involvement. This will increase the support for biodiversity protection and so stimulate the carrying out of actions in this area.

Furthermore, collaboration in a complementary and integrated way between administrations, both from different sectors as from different policy levels (federal, regional and local levels), on the basis of the subsidiary principle, is crucial to protect biodiversity.

Several initiatives to involve stakeholders have already been taken; there are ‘Plan Communaux pour le développement de la Nature, PCDN’, which are municipal initiatives based on local partnership on nature development aiming for the preservation and development of biodiversity by taking account of the ecological network; and also River Contracts that brings together all the actors of a river valley with the aim to reach a consensus on an action programme for the restoration of the water course, the river banks and surroundings and the water resources. Invited are representatives of the political, administrative, socio-economic, educational, scientific and associative worlds.

4. Sustainable production and consumption
Objective 5.10 - Maintain and reinforce the social function of biodiversity.

Human beings are dependent on fundamental biological systems and processes for their well-being and enjoyment of life. Until now, there is insufficient recognition (and understanding) of the important connection between biodiversity and social well-being (health, educational attainment, procurement of goods demanded by society, job creation and preservation, relaxation, etc.). The aesthetic values of natural ecosystems and landscapes often contribute to the inspirational, emotional and spiritual well-being of a highly urbanised population.

For all these reasons it is necessary to maintain and learn more about the social benefits of biodiversity and the benefits arising from social variety with a view to reinforcing synergies and reducing social inequalities and the avoidable pressures and negative impacts they exert on biodiversity.

In connection with Objectives 5.8 and 7.5, the social and cultural diversity in Belgium will be duly taken into account when elaborating and implementing biodiversity policies with a view to mobilising in an efficient and equitable way the various publics and actors in society.

Objective 5.11 - Integrate biodiversity values into national (federal and regional) policies, programmes, planning processes and reporting systems, and develop an approach to support incorporation into national accounting if needed.

Decision-making in spatial planning and development projects takes the values of biodiversity into account. Where appropriate, payments for ecosystem services are considered a useful policy tool, notably when it promotes measures that go beyond the scope of the sustainable management of natural resources or in the framework of restoration.

As far as national accounts are concerned, the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) already provides a methodology for some aspects of natural capital accounting. But much work remains to be done, especially on accounting for regulating ecosystem services. Belgium contributes to the related international endeavours. Work on adequate means to integrate natural capital considerations into private sector accounting is stimulated.

2. Biodiversity values integrated
Objective 5.2 - Encourage the involvement of the private sector in the protection of biodiversity, as an integral part of business planning and operations.

Companies are more and more scrutinized on their impacts on biodiversity by stakeholders (investors, employees, consumers, etc.). Many businesses own and manage land, their activities therefore directly affect biodiversity (companies active in sectors such as agriculture, water, woodlands and forestry, tourism and transport for example). Other companies can have indirect impacts, such as financial services companies through loan or investment policies, and retailers, through the purchase of intensively produced agricultural products.

Therefore it is important to consult private sector and ask their advice on the best way to apply enterprise’s instruments, such as environmental reports, labels, integrating biodiversity requirements into company management systems, green purchases, etc., to improve their environmental performance and engage more fully in managing and reporting on biodiversity.

The establishment of Company Biodiversity Action Plans to manage the company’s overall impacts on biodiversity (including management of sites in its ownership or control) can be an appropriate instrument to manage biodiversity impacts and contribute to biodiversity protection.

Furthermore, the private sector needs to understand the importance of biodiversity and be aware of the legislations protecting it and the opportunities to take actions to preserve it.

State aids to private sector operators are an important instrument to promote activities that take biodiversity concerns into account (see operational Objective 5.5.).

Objective 5.3 - Ensure that this Strategy is taken into account in decision-making and policy discussions and encourage the development and use of guidelines for the integration of biodiversity into all relevant sectoral policies.

The Belgian Biodiversity Strategy should play a part in decision-making processes and be considered at the decision-making and planning levels. Biodiversity concerns should be considered from the early stages of the drafting process when developing new plans, programs, legislative and regulatory frameworks.

The biodiversity policy should not be seen as independent of sectoral policies, but both should be mutually supportive: sectoral policies should support the implementation of national biodiversity goals while integration of biodiversity goals should be beneficial to the sectoral policies.

The sectoral integration of biodiversity, or its “mainstreaming”, means the integration of the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in both cross-sectoral plans such as sustainable development, climate change adaptation/mitigation, trade, international cooperation and poverty reduction, and in sector-specific plans such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, mining, energy, tourism, transport, the chemical industry, finances, sciences policy and others. It implies changes in development models, strategies and thought patterns.

To operationalize the integration of biodiversity concerns into decision-making and policy discussions in sectors other than nature conservation, the application of sectoral guidelines on biodiversity mainstreaming will be promoted. The work will build on existing tools (such as the CBD’s Capacity Building module on Biodiversity Mainstreaming) and adapt them for Belgium if necessary. It is also extremely important to continually review the adequacy of legislation in furthering the objectives of the Belgian Biodiversity Strategy. The use of participative approaches can here be helpful.

1. Awareness increased
Objective 5.4 - Identify in strategic planning the negative and positive effects of the different sectoral policies (land-use planning, transport, energy) on priority elements of biodiversity, and take measures to correct or strengthen these effects.

Activities with potential negative impacts must be identified and investigated in order to determine the exact causes and effects of those activities on biodiversity. These analyses will allow solutions (including better alternatives) to be identified that avoid or minimise the impacts of sectoral policies on biodiversity.

Activities must be boosted that have a potentially positive effect on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Early discussions between the sectors and biodiversity experts could help identify such ‘win-win’ situations and improve the positive interactions.

Through clear and legally binding rules, competent authorities should not approve projects and plans that would lead to irreversible damage for the priority elements of biodiversity, unless justified by imperative reasons of major public interest.

Therefore environmental impact assessment (EIA) and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) procedures must include biodiversity criteria and should refer to relevant national policy documents such as the Belgian Biodiversity Strategy, the CBD and biodiversity-related conventions and agreements. In this context, the guidance documents on integrating climate change and biodiversity into EIA and SEA issued by the European Commission (2013) under the EIA and SEA Directives (see below) should be implemented.

In order to promote a participative environmental policy, it is important to link the strategic planification (evaluation of impacts of plans and programmes related to environment) with public participation, as required by the European Directives.

The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo, 1991) and its protocol and amendments set out the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of the planning process. It also lays down the general obligation of individual states to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across national boundaries.

The assessment of impacts caused on biodiversity by projects and plans is already provided for by the European legislative framework:

- Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 85/337/EEC has been amended three times and is codified by Directive 2011/92/EU. It requires Member States to ensure that projects likely to have significant effects on the environment because of their nature, size or location are subject to an assessment of their environmental effects.

- Article 6 of the Habitats Directive requires that an appropriate assessment be undertaken for any plan or project which, either alone or in combination with other plans or projects, would be likely to have a significant effect on a Natura 2000 site.

- The Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (2001/42/EC) requires that certain plans and programmes from the public sector be made subject to systematic environment assessment. The SEA directive specifically mentions biodiversity as one issue that has to be reported on in the environmental report.

These dispositions have been transposed into the Belgian Federal and Regional legal framework. However, there is a need to provide guidance to the initiators of relevant projects, plans and programmes to assess whether their projects, plans and programmes would be likely to cause any significant effects on biodiversity and if so, whether they should be subject to an SEA (for example, development of guidelines or establishment of an advisory committee including biodiversity experts). Furthermore, a set of criteria on biodiversity aspects to be taken into consideration during the environmental assessment, i.e. in the evaluation report, could also be useful in this regard.

Objective 5.5 - Eliminate, phase out or reform incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity in order to minimize or avoid negative impacts on biodiversity and encourage the development and application of incentives favourable to the conserva

It is crucial to provide the right market signals for biodiversity conservation. Since 2006, the NBS has been planning to combine market-based instruments in addition to normative instruments and processes (regulations, access and market restrictions, management plans, etc.), in order to provide positive incentives for biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Such instruments are core elements for the application of the ‘polluter pays’ principle through the establishment of environmental liability regimes.

There is a need to make greater and more consistent use of domestic economic instruments with respect to biodiversity protection. The adoption of socially and economically sound measures (like subsidies, state aid, grants-in-aid, and measures prescribed in the tax system) that act as incentives for biodiversity is of central importance to the realisation of the three objectives of the CBD. Public authorities should promote companies that have a responsible investments policy that take biodiversity into account. State aids should take a more holistic approach to promote environment. In particular, state aids to operators must be better used to promote and avoid any negative effects on biodiversity. Internalisation (the incorporation of external costs and benefits) should be considered to be one of the guiding principles for selecting appropriate incentive measures to prevent, stop or reverse the loss of biodiversity.

Some Regional initiatives, co-financed by the EU, have already been taken in Belgium: subsidies are granted for activities which take biodiversity into account such as private sustainable management of nature reserves, environmental measures in farming (for example enlargement and maintenance of natural borders, and use of manual or mechanised systems instead of chemicals), sustainable forestry (forest owners receiving subsidies for the development and implementation of forest-management plans that are based on sustainable forest management, for example conservation of indigenous tree species, and use of endemic species in re‑afforestation projects), exemption from succession rights for private forests and exemption from succession rights and a levy for real property for land in the Flemish Ecological Network, exemption from death duties and real-estate deductions for land property situated in Natura 2000 Walloon sites, exemption of succession rights for non-profit associations that make natural area accessible for the public, etc.

Economic incentives measures must be further promoted to encourage the protection of biodiversity in Belgium. For example, imposing a higher cost on products using virgin resources, promoting products obtained from sustainable managed resources (like wood products certified as being harvested in sustainable conditions), creating positive financial incentive for biodiversity friendly products, or providing payment to farmers who maintain biodiversity on their land, could be used as incentives to make sustainable use of biodiversity more attractive than unsustainable activities.

Alongside the introduction of incentives to support conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, consideration must be given to removing or redirecting perverse economic incentives that accelerate the loss of biodiversity (these range from public subsidies that support unsustainable farming and fisheries to projects that erode or destroy biodiversity). It is a critical and necessary step in terms of preserving biodiversity that would also generate broader net socio-economic benefits. This also includes work to reform, phase out and eliminate harmful subsidies (Aichi target 3; EU Target 6). The work done at EU level to eliminate the adverse impacts of sectoral EU policies (such as commercial fishing, agriculture, forestry development cooperation) will be complemented by appropriate measures at national level, including the possible reform of economic, fiscal and financial instruments.

As single measures will often not suffice to address the complexities involved in decisions on biodiversity protection or sustainable use, a mix of measures may be needed. It is also important that the different instruments (at the different levels) are linked, that they are efficiently used and that shortcomings are followed up.

Furthermore, the ‘value’ of biodiversity needs to be addressed (link with Objective 7.6. ‘Improve our knowledge of the socio-economic benefits of biodiversity’) in order to integrate market and non-market aspects of biodiversity into economic and social decisions. Indeed, the pressures to reduce biodiversity are so great that to demonstrate the value of biodiversity, we need to encourage the introduction of incentives.

3. Incentives reformed
Objective 5.6 - Take biodiversity concerns into account in national export credit policy.

Export Credit Agencies provide financial support (loans, guarantees, insurance) for projects in southern and eastern Europe. They aim to help national industries abroad. Export credit policies may have very significant impacts on environment and biodiversity in particular (for example by supporting construction projects of dams, pipelines, etc.).

The impact on biodiversity needs to be fully incorporated in the procedures for evaluation of projects applying for support by export credit agencies. It is important to examine the environmental criteria used to assess investments by Export Credit Agencies and other publicly funded financial institutions and to ensure that these criteria take biodiversity into consideration. Project screening procedures must ensure that activities that lead to irreversible damage to biodiversity are not promoted.

Export Credit Agencies need to be more transparent in the eligibility criteria used and indicate which international obligation and engagements subscribed by Belgium they take into account. The following actions could also help credit export agencies to take biodiversity concern into account in national export credit policy:
- Implement a harmonised procedure to check whether a project respond to the international biodiversity related obligations and engagements subscribed by Belgium.
- Organise training for credit export agencies staff Belgium’s international obligations and engagements related to biodiversity. Another measure to promote integration of biodiversity in credit export policies is to ask companies to sign a declaration of intent setting out the commitments of the companies to meet the objectives of the national biodiversity strategy.