Climate, environment, biodiversity: good and bad news of 2021

The WWF’s balance sheet: “There has been no real desire to change the economy, policies and lifestyles, the effects on climate, ecosystems and health underestimated”

A year of environment between successes and missed opportunities. To draw the balance of this 2021 that is about to close is the WWF which draws up the list of good and bad news. Let’s start with the first ones.

Climate: from the Cop26 in Glasgow the 1.5 ° C limit to global warming is strengthened and important voluntary commitments are made between some countries, including the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance (Boga), while Portugal says goodbye to coal with 9 years in advance. Green Deal: the European Parliament approved the Biodiversity 2030 and Farm to Fork strategies, which set important goals for the protection of 30% of our lands and seas by 2030 and for the ecological transition of our agriculture.

Soil: on November 17, 2021, the European Commission presented the new Soil Strategy for 2030, “Reaping the benefits of healthy soils for people, food, nature and climate”: another important tool for implementation of the Green Deal in Europe.

Forests: in November the long-awaited bill against imported deforestation finally arrived at the European Parliament, that is, linked to the production of goods or commodities (beef, chocolate, etc.). Re-Nature: the European Union anticipates the next release of the Restoration Law focused precisely on the restoration of natural ecosystems, in line with the provisions of the European Green Deal.

Biodiversity: something has moved on the international front, from the Nature Compact initiative of the G7 countries to the final statement of the G20 and the Kunming Declaration on the occasion of the first Cop15 Session on Biodiversity, in which a strong impulse was given to the request for “A global goal for nature” to be adopted by 2022.

Mediterranean: the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean has taken important decisions for the sustainable management of fish stocks, mitigating by-catches of sharks and other species, fighting illegal fishing and creating new areas closed to fishing and strengthening policies to safeguard the small fishing.

We now come to the painful notes. On the climate front, “at COP26 there was no change of pace that everyone hoped and expected”, denounces the WWF, recalling how, in the meantime, in 2021 extreme events have multiplied all over the world, with July 2021 that it turned out to be the hottest month ever.

Biodiversity: the loss of nature continues at an unprecedented rate (in the period August 2020-July 2021, deforestation in the Amazon has registered an increase of 22% and according to the IUCN in the last 10 years at least 160 species have become extinct).

Fires: in the Mediterranean, particularly in Greece and Turkey, the 2021 fire season was one of the worst in recent decades, in Italy the worst since 2008; records have also been reached in Siberia where a single fire has cleared 1.5 million hectares of forest.

Agriculture: the reform of the post-2022 Common Agricultural Policy has ended at European level, “a very bad reform that does not incorporate the objectives of the European Green Deal” for the WWF. Pnrr: a Plan, for the WWF, “really not very green”, very low investments to secure natural capital, just 0.5% of the total amount of the Plan (1.19 billion out of a total of 195.5 billion) dedicated to biodiversity. Interventions on decarbonisation are also limited and with lights and shadows.

Plastic: yet another postponement for the plastic tax in the Draft Budgetary Document for 2022, the tax will only come into force in 2023. Pesticides: after completing the discussion in the Agriculture Committees of the Senate and Chamber, the national law on organic farming remains blocked the Chamber of Deputies; the European Commission issues a favorable opinion on the use of glyphosate.

Sea: despite the encouraging steps in regional management, the Mediterranean is a sea under siege, the state of the fish stocks is still dramatic (75% are overexploited) while temperatures register a + 20%. Soil: in Italy once again the parliament loses the opportunity to stop the wild overbuilding and secure the territory.

In short, for WWF 2021, despite expectations, was characterized by the “lack of an effective will to change the economy, policies and lifestyles, continuing to underestimate the effects on climate, ecosystems and our health”. There was no lack of signs of vitality, to be consolidated and clarified, such as the words of the Prime Minister Mario Draghi dedicated, in his inauguration speech, to the climate crisis and biodiversity; the expectations created with the transformation of the Ministry of the Environment into a Ministry of Ecological Transition; the launch of a NRP which allocates 59.3 billion euros of the 191.5 billion allocated by Italy to Europe for the ‘green revolution’ and ecological transition.

But, underlines the WWF, “we do not perceive the political-institutional courage necessary to take the road towards decarbonisation of the economy with decision and clarity” and “the commitment to save our natural capital is also too marginal and too modest funds to carry out widespread interventions for the conservation of nature, with the aim of protecting 30% of our territory and our seas by 2030, as envisaged by the European Biodiversity Strategy “.