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Hopeful and Helpful: Highlights from the EU Green Week 2020

On the Theme 'Nature and Biodiversity'

One of the biggest annual environmental events in Europe, EU Green Week, was held from 19th -23rd October 2020. The event was a hybrid live meeting in Lisbon, Portugal with virtual sessions in Brussels and other parallel events held across Europe. The program was honoured with renowned scientists, experts and policy makers, who discussed various topics on the main theme for the event ’Nature and Biodiversity’.

The Green Week was used to mark the role biodiversity plays in shaping our society and the economy. Our society has been turned upside down in recent months from the Coronavirus pandemic, and we have also seen how our society reacted when it really matters. Experts at the event discussed the need to take this experience further in our work toward a more sustainable society, and that everyone has a role to play in ending a global crisis. Therefore, the Green Week was an opportunity for many stakeholders within the European Union to reflect on how biodiversity can contribute to the post pandemic recovery of a more sustainable society with a resilient economic growth that can create jobs. Speakers invited for the event emphasized on the need to rethink about the human-environment interaction to improve our understanding on ways to safeguard and restore biodiversity that will tackle climate change amid the Corona situation.

Throughout the week, speakers and experts discussed interesting topics such as

  • Rewilding nature
  • Reducing deforestation
  • Bringing biodiversity back into the cities
  • The new green and blue economy
  • Biodiversity-friendly food production system
  • The EU Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity strategy for 2030 and how these policies can aid in the Corona recovery process
  • The EU LIFE Awards was held to recognize some of the most exceptional, innovative and effective projects in the areas of nature protection, environment and climate action. 15 finalists were selected as winners for this year.
  • The 2020 State of Nature Report, which assessed the current state of biodiversity conservation and nature in Europe (issued every six years). The key finding from the report was that there is a continuous decline in protected species and habitats as a results of humans demands for new resources which is likely to get worse if the trend continues without any action, subsequently putting the health, security and well-being of humans at risk.
This Copernicus Sentinel-2 image captures the Oostvadersplassen – a nature reserve close to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Covering 56 sq km, this polder was created in 1968 as a haven for birds. By Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2017, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91013111

On day 4 of the Green Week in Brussels, the youth advocacy group, Biodiversity Action Europe (BAE), presented their ’Call for Action for a Biodiverse Planet’ to the European Commission. They outlined three specific ways to deal with the biodiversity crisis to the European Union and these include; (i) to involve policy making with science and environmental agreements, (ii) to implement existing laws and regulations and (iii) to allow society to redesign its relationship with nature. BAE also appealed on all participants to be environmentally conscious with nature. There were a lot of takeaways from the event on ways to restore our ecosystem and move towards zero air pollution such as adopting a new behavioural changes to the use of clean energy systems, our approach to land use and transportation.

On the final day of the Green Week, the Council of the European Union approved the conclusion for the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The Council has called on the commission to include the EU biodiversity policy objectives in all pertinent legislative proposals for the future. The Council also advocates the need to integrate these policy objectives into other various areas such as forestry, agriculture and fisheries. At the closing section of the event, the President of the European Comission, Ursala Von der Leyen shared a very compelling message to buttress the need to protect biodiversity. According to her, the benefits of nature restoration and protection are in threefold (i.e. to tackle climate change, jobs creation and to prevent biodiversity loss). She also emphasized on the European Green Deal (one of the ambitions to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by the year 2050 and also a roadmap for the 2021 COP 15 Biodiversity summit to be held in Kunming, China, where a 10-year action plan for biodiversity will be adopted by world leaders)

‘’We don’t want to inherit multiple crises - biodiversity crisis, climate crisis, economic and health crisis - these things are not only scary, they are life threatening. We therefore need all sectors and all generations to work together on this’’

Nadine Schuler, Founder of Pollinator Ambassadors
By Kim Hansen - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2847421

Green Week in Norway

Many events also happened across Europe organized by NGO’s, Universities and other environmental organizations. The University of South- eastern Norway (where am currently doing my research), in collaboration with the student welfare organization also marked the Green Week dubbed ‘Miljøuka’ which translates from Norwegian as ‘Environmental Week’. The main focus of the event was on how to cut waste for a sustainable society (zero waste), and a more environmentally friendly student life. The event with both virtual and physical meetings was marked with interesting activities related to saving food, waste sorting and cheap sustainable cooking.

On the first day of the event, Susanne Nesse, an expert in food, sustainability and food waste delivered a great talk, titled The Food Rescue (Eat All Your Food). In her speech, she inspired students on ways to become food rescuers and avoid the culture of throwing more food away. Statistics shows that each year about 42 kilos of edible food on the average is thrown away by Norwegians which makes food waste a major challenge. Her inspiring speech stressed on ways to manage food waste. Making food consciousness a natural part of our daily life is the key step to reduce food waste. As consumers we buy more than we need in order to save money, but we don´t actually eat all the food before it spoils and much of the food ends up as waste.

Here are some tips the expert gave at the event as a way of reducing waste:

  • Plan your meal with a shopping list and purchase only what you need
  • Store food properly
  • Be aware of the labelling on food. Know the difference between “best before” and “use-by” dates. Some of these food are usually still safe to eat after the “best before” dates.
  • Develop love for our leftover foods. We can freeze and use our leftover foods later.
  • We can also compost our waste food to give nutrients back to the soil as this is also a way to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Eat more veggies. 
  • Donate or share food that would have gone waste.
  • Purchase more local food products, in this case we are helping to tackle pollution due to food transportation from a longer distance.

Reducing food waste is very important in a world where many people go hungry day in and day out. Green Week was a period to reflect on ways to change our habits and avoid making food waste a part of our lifestyle. We can make a global impact if we make little changes to our daily habits, by wasting less food and adopting a sustainable lifestyle that can build a world free of hunger. 

Apart from food waste, the clothing industy is another big callenge to the environment. In Norway, many tons of brand new clothes are thrown away each year. There were series of discussion by the participants at the Green Week event on ways to manage this problem; for example we all need to get better at wearing clothes longer, swapping and buying used clothes, repairing and redesigning old clothes, etc.

The Green Week was an occasion to address the drivers of ecosystem and biodiversity loss, to allow people to benefit from the sustainable use of biodiversity. There is a clarion call from scientist about the rapid decline of biodiversity in all parts of the world and the next decade is very crucial. Thus, we need to change the way we live by adapting to cleaner energy sources and sustainable land management. This is the time to live an everyday life that produces as little waste as possible. We must all come together and build our relationship with the environment to create a sustainable future.

What are some of the best practises and waste policies we can adapt to support thetransistion from the throw away culture to a zero waste society?

How will you change your daily lifesyle to reduce food waste?

Anglichanka Rock, Republic of Buryatiya, Russia. By Майфат Денис - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49160259

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