Reinforcing Europe’s resilience: halting biodiversity loss and building a healthy and sustainable food system

Yesterday, the European Commission adopted a comprehensive new Biodiversity Strategy to bring nature back into our lives and a Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system. The two strategies are mutually reinforcing, bringing together nature, farmers, business and consumers for jointly working towards a competitively sustainable future.

In line with the European Green Deal, they propose ambitious EU actions and commitments to halt biodiversity loss in Europe and worldwide and transform our food systems into global standards for competitive sustainability, the protection of human and planetary health, as well as the livelihoods of all actors in the food value chain. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated how vulnerable the increasing biodiversity loss makes us and how crucial a well-functioning food system is for our society. The two strategies put the citizen at the centre, by committing to increase the protection of land and sea, restoring degraded ecosystems and establishing the EU as a leader on the international stage both on the protection of biodiversity and on building a sustainable food chain.

The new Biodiversity Strategy tackles the key drivers of biodiversity loss, such as unsustainable use of land and sea, overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, and invasive alien species. Adopted in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, the strategy is a central element of the EU’s recovery plan, crucial to preventing and building resilience to future outbreaks and providing immediate business and investment opportunities for restoring the EU’s economy. It also aims to make biodiversity considerations an integral part of EU’s overall economic growth strategy. The strategy proposes to, among others, establish binding targets to restore damaged ecosystems and rivers, improve the health of EU protected habitats and species, bring back pollinators to agricultural land, reduce pollution, green our cities, enhance organic farming and other biodiversity-friendly farming practices, and improve the health of European forests. The strategy brings forward concrete steps to put Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, including transforming at least 30% of Europe’s lands and seas into effectively managed protected areas and bringing back at least 10% of agricultural area under high-diversity landscape features. Continue reading “Reinforcing Europe’s resilience: halting biodiversity loss and building a healthy and sustainable food system”

Lifelong learning requires more substantial public funding

To adjust to the new world of work, people will need many skill sets acquired in different learning environments.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) said that EU Member States should increase public investment in lifelong learning, with a special focus on the education of adults, and should earmark targeted funding for the continuous upskilling and reskilling of the most vulnerable groups in society to indiscriminately equip people with new skills tailored to jobs of the future.

To avoid an acute shortage of skilled labour, Europe will also have to look beyond formal education and allocate more funds for learning in non-formal and informal settings (for example, in youth organisations or via the media, respectively), in which learners can develop softer skills, such as critical thinking and teamwork, or character traits, such as leadership and curiosity.

It is increasingly recognised that as well as basic literacy and digital skills, people will need these soft skills to adapt to the impact of global digital and technological advances, which are currently transforming the world of work and the skills profiles of many occupations so quickly that it is often difficult to predict what skills will be needed in the future. Continue reading “Lifelong learning requires more substantial public funding”

A deep and uneven recession, an uncertain recovery

The coronavirus pandemic represents a major shock for the global and EU economies, with very severe socio-economic consequences. Despite the swift and comprehensive policy response at both EU and national level, the EU economy will experience a recession of historic proportions this year.

The Spring 2020 Economic Forecast projects that the euro area economy will contract by a record 7¾% in 2020 and grow by 6¼% in 2021. The EU economy is forecast to contract by 7½% in 2020 and grow by around 6% in 2021. Growth projections for the EU and euro area have been revised down by around nine percentage points compared to the Autumn 2019 Economic Forecast.

The shock to the EU economy is symmetric in that the pandemic has hit all Member States, but both the drop in output in 2020 (from -4¼% in Poland to -9¾% in Greece) and the strength of the rebound in 2021 are set to differ markedly. Each Member State’s economic recovery will depend not only on the evolution of the pandemic in that country, but also on the structure of their economies and their capacity to respond with stabilising policies. Given the interdependence of EU economies, the dynamics of the recovery in each Member State will also affect the strength of the recovery of other Member States. Continue reading “A deep and uneven recession, an uncertain recovery”