Various federal departments play a significant role with regard to biodiversity. Mobility is a prime case in point. Boats, trains and lorries carry exotic species – often unknowingly – that are a potential threat to our local flora and fauna. Another example is CO2 emissions from vehicles, contributing to global warming. One of the many solutions aimed at reducing the impact of these changes is biofuel. However, large bio-energy plantations could have a dramatic effect when they replace ecosystems with a rich biodiversity. It is therefore vital to reinforce the synergies between biodiversity and the struggle to combat climate change.
In that respect, the DG Environment has decided to integrate more biodiversity issues into the policies of the federal authorities. In close collaboration with the experts involved, it has developed the Federal Plan 2009-2013 for the integration of biodiversity in four key federal sectors. This plan identifies more than 70 concrete actions for the integration of biodiversity in four key federal sectors: economy, development cooperation, science policy and transport. The Cabinet has taken note of the Federal Plan in November 2009.
Concrete action: some examples
Economy: Invasive exotic species can be a threat to biodiversity, cause economic damage and/or be harmful to human health. In order to prevent its dispersion, legal action will be taken to prohibit the importation or possession of certain species which have been proven to pose a serious threat to the environment. This is the case for the bull frog and the water purslane (water plant), amongst others. Belgium will also monitor compliance with the criteria in terms of biodiversity with respect to production and import of biofuels.
Development cooperation: Illegal timber trade contributes to the destruction of biodiversity, most noticeably in tropical areas. With the help of the World Bank and the European Commission, Belgium will play an important role in combating this phenomenon, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). For example, our country can raise the local communities’ awareness of the importance of their biological resources and strengthen local administrative capacities (planning, management, control, punishment). The customs, the police and the judiciary play a key role in monitoring the sustainability criteria of imported timber, with the port of Antwerp being a gateway to Europe.
Science policy: In order to gain more knowledge about the "hidden" economic value of ecosystems and to spread that knowledge, Belgium will integrate socio-economic disciplines into the scientific research on biodiversity. Our country will also establish a system for the early detection of invasive species, in cooperation with other European scientific institutions.
Transport: For the management of railways, embankments, roadsides and railway edges, the SNCB Group will avoid methods that overly disrupt the biodiversity. Infrabel will further reduce the use of pesticides. A wildlife crossing will be built in a vulnerable wooded area. Maritime transport, for its part, will focus on the control of ballast water and sediments, which are the habitats of choice for unwanted exotic organisms. This aim of integration follows the logic of the National Biodiversity Strategy (NBS).