Urban Bees went to Brussels last month to take part in a consultation workshop on the EU’s proposed initiative for pollinators. With a reported dramatic decline in insects leading to warnings of ‘ecological Armageddon’ any initiative can’t come soon enough.
Our session – attended by NGOs, academics and policy makers – looked at how to best protect pollinators in urban areas. We introduced participants to our educational work in London, where we are raising awareness about the importance of improving forage and habitat for all bees and other pollinators through ‘meet the honeybee’ lunchtime classes, bee spotter sessions and our King’s Cross Bee App.
We suggested the best approach the EU could take would be to:
- regulate that all new developments in cities must be pollinator-friendly with living roofs and parks and green spaces that are good for pollinators as well as for people
- ban the sale and use of pesticides and weed killers.
Policy makers made it clear that the EU can’t legislate on city developments as this is up to individual member states. They also said the EU doesn’t ban things, which seemed odd as they are about to introduce a field ban neonicotinoids across the EU.
Ten years ago, when honeybees started to vanish in alarming numbers in the US mainly due to what was dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder, any pesticide ban was completely unthinkable. Pesticides were dismissed by most scientist and politicians as having little to do with the problem. Conveniently for the manufacturers no independent testing was done at that time, and the public was unaware of all of this. But that soon changed. The mobilisation of millions of concerned people across the globe, together with the potentially huge economic impact of bee losses on the food supply, led governments to invest in independent research and take the protection of bees – honeybees in particular – seriously. A temporary ban on neonics followed in 2013 after plenty of research showing they were part of the problem and pressure on politicians from NGOs from Friends of the Earth to 38 Degrees, and their millions of members to ‘save the bees’. Now it’s even clearer that they are a major problem for bees’ health a total field ban looks likely.
So the moral of the story is to exert pressure and don’t give up until the politicians start to listen.
Other good suggestions to come out of the workshop included introducing:
- an EU award like the Blue Flag scheme for clean beaches for pollinator-friendly spaces
- a kitemark like FairTrade for food manufacturers and their suppliers that support pollinators.
To have your say on the public consultation on the EU initiative for pollinators which ends on Thursday 5 April.