EU Nature legislation ‘fit for purpose’, but implementation needs to be strengthened, finds European Commission study

A report published by the European Commission today has found that the EU’s Nature Directives, the backbone of European conservation action, are ‘fit for purpose’. The draft findings of a study on the EU Birds and Habitats Directives show that the legislation, where implemented appropriately, has been effective in protecting some of Europe’s most threatened species and habitats, especially within the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Overall, the Directives are deemed to have made a ‘major contribution’ to the goal of halting biodiversity loss in the EU, the target agreed by all EU member states in the EU’s 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.

Zavratnica bay, significant landscape (IUCN category V)

These findings will inform the European Commission’s evaluation (fitness check) of the Nature Directives, whose objective is to conclude if the legislation is adequate for helping the EU reach its 2020 targets.

The study also calls for sustained and urgent EU action on conservation and restoration, and the political will to enforce the full and effective implementation of the Directives, the lack of which was identified as the key obstacle for delivering the full biodiversity benefits. It points to major economic benefits of adequate implementation, from enhanced ecosystem services and tourism.

However, the report also found that the Directives alone cannot deliver the goals of halting biodiversity loss, but that urgent complementary action was required in other policy areas, notably agriculture.

IUCN has welcomed the findings of the study. “The report confirms our view that the EU Birds and Habitats Directives are fit for delivering on the biodiversity targets, but it also clearly shows that solid means of implementation is lagging behind. ‘Business as usual’ is not an option, but urgent action is needed both at EU and national level to step up efforts to put the legislation to work ‘on the ground’. This will require smart and consistent funding – but it has to be made clear that this is an investment in our future, rather than a cost to society,” said Luc Bas, Director of the IUCN European Regional Office.

The findings of the report will be the subject of a Conference on the Fitness Check of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives organized by the European Commission, to be held in Brussels on 20 November 2015 to present and discuss with Member States the preliminary conclusions emerging from the assessment. IUCN will intervene together with representatives of national governments, the private sector, and environmental NGOs.

European Union
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