Good morning everyone, and thank you Frans for that introduction.
Let me emphasise in particular one point you mentioned: Biodiversity is far more than a purely environmental protection issue, it is of utmost relevance for each of us.
Nature isn't a ‘nice to have'- it's essential. We need it for the air we breathe and the food we eat, and our economies and our health depend on it.
So we have really worked to get everyone on board: farmers, fishermen and women, business and consumers. Only if we all act together, then we can stop the dramatic biodiversity loss that affects all of us.
It starts with protection. When you have adequate protection, properly enforced, nature pays you back. We already have Natura 2000, our network of protected habitats and species, covering 20 percent of the EU, but we know that's not enough. It's time to build on Natura 2000 and other national protection schemes to and establish a truly coherent Trans-European Nature Network. A bigger network, and connected, that covers at least 30% of our lands and 30% of our seas.
Because of their essential features, one third of these protected areas, so 10% of EU land and 10% of EU seas, should also be strictly protected. That will include primary and old-growth forests. We cannot ask other parts of the world to safeguard their primal forests if we are still destroying the few we have left in Europe.
After protection, we have restoration. Today we're unveiling a far-reaching plan to restore Europe's nature, with commitments to meet by 2030. They include restoring significant areas of degraded land, so that at least 30% of habitats and species reach favourable conservation status, but also restoring significant areas of carbon-rich ecosystems such as sea grass-meadows, wetlands, peatlands that help in the mitigation against climate change. We plan to propose next year legally binding restoration targets to achieve these objectives.
The restoration plan also includes action to integrate biodiversity in other economic activities and uses of land and sea, from agricultural land to the heart of our cities. With Farm to Fork we will protect pollinators by reducing the risk and use of chemical pesticides by 50% and the use of high-risk pesticides by 50%, and support farmers to shift to agro-ecological practices.
After protection and restoration come the measures to ensure it works in practice. By helping Member States make the strategy part of their domestic policy, we get a better match between EU and global action. This includes regular checks on progress.
Enabling also means funding. One quarter of the EU budget is now dedicated to climate action, and a significant proportion of this will be invested in biodiversity and nature-based solutions. Under Invest EU we'll set up a dedicated initiative for natural capital and a circular economy initiative, worth €10 billion of public/private blended finance.
The final broad area of the strategy is tackling global challenges. What we are delivering today is a firm commitment to lead by example. This lays the ground for the EU to take the lead in the forthcoming international negotiations.
This is a strategy for reconnection with nature, for helping Europe to heal. A strategy which will help us to become more resilient. It couldn't come at a better time.
Thank you. I look forward to your questions.