PR | With BiodiversiScape, Zakia Khattabi intends to boost biodiversity in Belgium
Ahead of COP15 on biodiversity to be held in Montreal (Canada) from 7 to 19 December, the Federal Minister for the Environment officially launched the BiodiversiScape project on Thursday, 24 November. This initiative aims at promoting biodiversity in federal properties and lands.
Belgium is a densely populated, highly urbanized country, criss-crossed by roads, railways and infrastructures that reduce and disconnect the living spaces of animals and plants. This situation raises problems for species in terms of feeding, moving, finding shelter or reproducing, which contributes to biodiversity loss. In order to reverse this trend and strengthen the blue-green network in and around cities, BiodiversiScape aims to protect and restore biodiversity in areas where the federal government has room for action (sites belonging to the Defence, the Building Agency, the SNCB and Infrabel).
For Zakia Khattabi, who returned from COP27 on Sunday evening, there is an urgent need to act: "addressing the loss of biodiversity is one of today’s major environmental challenges, in order to guarantee the conditions of viability on Earth. The planet will live without us, the opposite is not true. Last October, WWF published its new report on the state of the world's biodiversity, and the findings are alarming: 69% of vertebrate species have declined in half a century! The report indicates, without any surprises, that if we do not manage to limit the rise in temperature to 1.5°C, climate change will become the main cause of biodiversity loss in the coming decades. This proves that these issues are two sides of the same coin.
"Because it is essential that the federal government takes the lead, leaves behind the silo approach and exploits the vast biodiversity potential of its properties and lands, I have today launched BiodiversiScape, an initiative through which, together with federal partners, we will take action to protect and restore biodiversity where we have the power to do so (sites of the Building Agency, Defence, SNCB and Infrabel). Every square metre counts", she continues.
"Belgium has been involved in the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People since July 2021. An initiative that calls for the adoption of a 30x30 target - protection of 30% of land and 30% of sea by 2030 - within the future global framework for biodiversity protection that will be discussed at the UN Conference of the Parties on Biodiversity (COP15) in December in Montreal and in which I will participate as head of delegation. Of course, more needs to be done, and the other 70 per cent must be managed in a sustainable way, since preserving biodiversity is essential for our environment and our health! Biodiversity is the backbone of sustainable development (food, housing, medicine
s, water, etc.) and is therefore fundamental to the full achievement of the sustainable development goals. This is why I will work hard to achieve an ambitious global framework for biodiversity with concrete targets, methodology and financing", the Minister concludes.
Several biodiversity awareness and development projects will therefore be rolled out at federal sites selected from several hundred million square metres of infrastructure and land managed by partners across the country.
In its first year, the BiodiversiScape team and its partners undertook an initial exploratory analysis to map the areas they manage and identify potential sites for improvement.
The first sites under study are currently:
- For Defence: the site of the Royal Military School (RMS), located in the heart of Brussels, in a highly mineralised area, and the site of the Royal School for Non-Commissioned Officers in Saffraanberg, located in the heart of the Hesbaye region, in the peri-urban area of Sint-Truiden.
- For the Building Agency: the site of the Federal Police building in Asse, located in an agricultural area, within an urban/suburban, commercial and residential zone.
- For the SNCB: the car parks of the stations of Zottegem, Ciney and Rhode-Saint-Genèse. These are car parks that will be restructured in the coming years.
- For Infrabel: several sites are still being studied.