On March 23rd, the College of Europe presented at the European Parliament its White Paper on Good Practices in the Fields of Environment and Energy in the EU Member States. The paper is the result of a student initiative looking to identify and promote sustainable actions throughout Europe. The working team has remarked several good practices and bundled them into four key components that can help improve sustainability, one of them includes Bee Inspection.
Before diving into the practices surrounding bees and the recommendations to improve their health, the author covers the importance of bees and the recognised causes behind their disappearance in the EU. Three leading causes are mentioned: "land use change (including monoculture and the increasing number of flowerless landscapes), the widespread use of pesticides, as well as various parasites and infectious diseases.
European Youth Charlemagne Prize 2017 winners to present white paper in the European Union, Image retrieved from: https://www.coleurope.eu/life-at-the-college/european-youth-charlemagne-prize-2017
BeeLife continuously covers the problems stemming from monocultures, urbanisation, and particularly the critical effects of an indiscriminate use of pesticides in agriculture on bees, other pollinators and biodiversity in general. However, there are alternatives, and the author mentions some recommendations that might change the story of the bee crisis in Europe.
The lack of any -known- data sharing mechanism between public administrations in the EU on bee health is a weakness that institutions can address through the implementation of bee inspectors. Such inspectors would serve as a bridge between different bee data researchers throughout the EU and even link the many national beekeeping scenes, taking into account the 620.000 active beekeepers in Europe. The author mentions initiatives as BeeOdiversity and Hostabee.
In overall, it sums up its suggestions as:
Put in place a framework for National Referents for Bee Protection and bee inspectors.
Ensure the Possibility of information and best practice exchange between National Referents for Bee Protection and the EU reference laboratory.
-Note: Certain efforts are currently in place to promote such type of exchanges. After the Bee Week 2017 at the European Parliament, several organisations, including BeeLife, have joined together to establish the EU Bee Partnership Discussion Group-
Besides good practices surrounding bees, the paper introduces other good practices.
- Urban Green Initiatives in the European Union (Urban Farms and Green Roofs): From empty spaces to green opportunities.
First of all, there is a precise definition of urban agriculture, setting it aside from rural farming. Urban farming bases itself on the advantages of proximity to a city or town, thus reducing transportation costs and CO2 emissions. Due to such proximity, its processes change, and it employs different technologies than rural agriculture.
Through different initiatives as school gardens, green roofs, community gardens, and others, this practice has been identified to provide benefits such as an increase of biodiversity, recycling of organic water, and, one that BeeLife focuses on, habitat and food source for pollinators.
Urban agriculture is a replicable initiative throughout Europe, with different examples coming from cities such as Barcelona, Dublin, Geneva, Milan, Rotterdam, Sofia, Warsaw and several others. In fact, the paper focuses on the Climate Change Initiative of Rotterdam, which includes urban agriculture among the measures to counteract air pollution and climate change.
- The Junker App: a new practice for waste management
How to promote recycling while making it easier for citizens? The Junker app provides a service to small and large cities by establishing a database "able to associate the barcode of products with their composting materials". The app is already functioning and available for download on both Android and IOS. The white paper team recognises the capacity of the app to be a source of inspiration for EU-wide projects, providing an unprecedented source of information on recycling throughout Europe.
Junker App explanation from the White Paper, originally retrieved from: https://www.slideshare.net/gnoma9/junker-app-presentation-english
- From biowaste to agricultural production and beyond: how to think the circularity of the European food system.
One of the highlights of this point is Greenhouse farming. Looking to produce more with reduced input and decreasing the need for pesticides and fertilisers, the White Paper sets it as a promising practice to take into account. Farming in a controlled environment includes the possible outcome of a positive influence on economic and ecological consequences. From water management to digitalisation, greenhouse farming presents opportunities that at least make it worthwhile to review, contrasting them to the challenges therein.
The White Paper presented by the College of Europe achieves its purpose to be a source of inspiration and to call civil society, the public and private sectors, and lawmakers to continue their reflexion on how to improve standard practices for both environmental and energy measures. Innovation is not always out of reach, and a good flow of communication and data sharing can help Europe benefit from its citizens and Member States' achievements to improve all of our environmental conditions.