Coral
9 January 2017

A biodiversity agency, for a new relationship between humankind and nature

The French Agency for Biodiversity has been fully operational since 1 January 2017, with Hubert Reeves as its Honorary President. Complementing the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, it recognises the connection between climate change and biodiversity, takes account of the impact that climate imbalance has on the integrity of all ecosystems, terrestrial and aquatic alike, and promotes biodiversity as a solution for limiting climate change.
 
The Law of 8 August 2016 for the reconquest of biodiversity, nature and landscapes has provided France with an ambitious and all-encompassing legal framework at the service of preservation of the environment and quality of life.
 
Complementary to the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act and the agreement on climate change reached in Paris during COP 21, the biodiversity law recognises the close connection between climate change and biodiversity, takes account of the impact that climate imbalance has on the integrity of all ecosystems, terrestrial and aquatic alike, and promotes biodiversity as a solution for limiting climate change and for adaptation.
 

A clear framework and simplified rules

The French Agency for Biodiversity (AFB) is the main tool instituted by the Law of 8 August 2016, which provides all stakeholders with a clear framework and simplified rules.
 
  • Four existing institutions have been brought together under the AFB banner: the Agency for Protected Marine Areas (AAMP), the National Office for Water and Aquatic Environments (ONEMA), the National Parks of France (PNF) and the Technical Workshop for Natural Areas (ATEN). A joint research unit will be set up with the National Natural History Museum and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). Special relations will be established with other State operators, including the National Office for Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS).
 
  • The AFB’s resources have been stepped up. The Agency has close to 1,200 employees across the national territory. Its contract staff benefit from a Quasi-Statute, published on 14 December 2016, which also applies to contract staff at the ONCFS, the National Parks, the Conservatory of Coastal Areas and Lake Shores (CLEL) and the Marais Poitevin Public Establishment (EPMP). This constitutes a major social advance for the staff in question, whose career management and prospects are much improved thereby.
 
  • The AFB is the State’s central operator for terrestrial, aquatic and marine biodiversity in Metropolitan and Overseas France. It will provide scientific, technical and financial support to the drafting, implementation and assessment of the policies concerned. It will develop and promote knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services, act to preserve and restore biodiversity, assist the various actors in implementing their projects, foster balanced and sustainable water management, and combat biopiracy. It will also contribute to the administrative and judicial policing of the environment.
 
  • The AFB will enact a proactive, mobilising policy, both protective and innovative, and do so in close collaboration with the territories: the 400 “territories with positive energy for green growth” (TEPCVs) are already taking part, with projects including educational gardens for schools, inventories of municipal biodiversity and installation of apiaries.
 
Created upon publication of the biodiversity law, the AFB has been fully operational since 1 January 2017, with Hubert Reeves as its Honorary President. Its Managing Director has been appointed and its Board of Directors established. It will be meeting for the first time on 19 January.
 
The Government has developed numerous actions to accompany the biodiversity law and creation of the AFB, with a view to fostering a new relationship between humankind and nature; they include an action plan for pollinating insects, creation of marine nature parks, nature reserves and other marine protected areas, a hackathon based on open data on biodiversity, a forum on the relationship between economy and biodiversity, and support for actions in favour of biodiversity in the context of the “Investments for the Future” programme.
 

Priority actions

Protection of the oceans is a priority for safeguarding biodiversity:
 
  • Extension of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands’ national nature reserve will enable preservation of marine mammal and bird feeding grounds, invaluable halieutic resources, marine species and, more generally, vulnerable Antarctic ecosystems.
French Southern and Antarctic Lands’ national nature reserve
The French Southern and Antarctic Lands’ national nature reserve
This marine protected area is the world’s second largest fishery reserve, with some 120,000 km² where fishing is prohibited. Along with the creation of the marine protected area around the French atoll of Clipperton off the Mexican coast on 25 November, and the future marine nature park in Martinique, this extension has enabled France to increase the share of French waters classified as protected marine areas from 4% to over 22% in just two years.
 
  • France is combating plastic pollution: after the end of single-use plastic carrier bags on 1 July 2016, the end of “fruit and vegetable” plastic bags is set for 1 January 2017. Used for only a few minutes, they take several hundred years to degrade and kill marine animals and birds that ingest them.
 
New measures to reduce chemical pollution are applicable as from 1 January 2017:
 
  • Prohibition of pesticides in public areas: in application of the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act, use of phytosanitary products in the State’s green spaces, forests, and local authority and public establishment promenades open to the public is prohibited.
 
  • Withdrawal of over-the-counter sale of pesticides to amateur gardeners: the prohibition of over-the-counter sale of conventional phytosanitary products to private individuals becomes total on 1 January 2017. This provision will affect customers, amateur gardeners, mass retailers, DIY shops and garden centres.
 
 
COP 21 saw an unprecedented determination to act to preserve the planet. The AFB has been created in a context of urgency, as human activities are destroying biodiversity at a pace and on a scale beyond its powers of regeneration. Reconquest of biodiversity is also a driver of innovation and job creation.


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