Resource Efficiency

Liesjärvi National Park © Tuomas Uola (FI)

Contribution to a resource-efficient, green and competitive, low-carbon and climate resilient economy through sustainable development in Protected Areas

To have any reversal of biodiversity loss and indeed a more sustainable use of Europe’s shared natural resource, change has to take place across a wide range of European policy areas. Therefore the EU has adopted the 7th Union Environment Action Programme (7EAP) to 2020 “Living well, within the limits of our planet” and coupled with the Europe 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, guiding policy development for the period up to 2020.

Embedded in the Europe 2020 Strategy’s ‘Resource-efficient Europe’ are policies which aim to move Europe’s economy to one in which natural resources, essential to underpin economic activity, are managed and utilised in a more sustainable way.

However there remains an ongoing demand for energy and debate on conflicts between land use for food and for bio-energy, which includes use of Protected Areas. Also the pressures on nature through transport and tourism remain high and without managed development the damaging and unsustainable tourism growth experienced in previous decades would extract a heavy toll on Europe’s natural environment. Therefore is it important to integrate the environmental aspect in policies and activities of other sectors, like agriculture and enterprise and industry, to make sure the goals set will be met.

In order to protect valuable ecological assets successfully, tackle climate change and limit the environmental aspects of resource use, commitment to a resource-efficient, green and competitive, low-carbon and climate resilient economy needs to be fully realized and it will need to be undertaken through mechanisms in all member states. Protected Areas and N2000 sites play an important role in Europe’s economy, delivering ecosystem services from provisioning to regulating, cultural and supporting services. Therefore the Protected Areas community and its partnerships with related private businesses need to ensure it contributes to reaching the target of a resource-efficient, competitive economy.

Protected Areas and indeed regional land management administrations will be key actors implementing EU Commissions policies. The EUROPARC Federation represents members who manage Europe’s Protected Areas at a national, regional and local government level. EUROPARC is the largest Protected Area network in Europe representing all European designations such as N2000 sites, SPA and SAC’s, as well as all national and regional designations, national parks, biosphere reserves, regional parks, marine Protected Areas etc. Further, EUROPARC members, through national agencies have the responsibility for the overall implementation of Commission directives, including the management of N2000 sites.

A substantial majority of our members actively manage N2000 sites within their Protected Areas. EUROPARC therefore represents all Protected Areas within Europe and as such the policy advice, implementation, capacity building, support and communications we undertake is fully available for those also managing N2000 sites.

The EUROPARC Federation has the ability to harness the experience of the Protected Area community, including N2000 site managers, and linking it to European businesses, through the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas (the Charter). The Charter has made a significant contribution to the development of sustainable tourism in many N2000 sites especially in rural and depressed regions of Europe. There are currently 131 Protected Areas across 16 countries in Europe certified with the Charter, involving many thousands of businesses and managing sustainably more than 7M hectares of N2000 and hosting about 73M visitors every year. The Charter process sees a current investment by PAs of about 440M €, and is giving the opportunity to establish partnerships with about 3200 organisations, giving support and recognitions to 700 local sustainable products.

Practices between EUROPARC certified Sustainable Tourism destinations, which have achieved the Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas award, and their business partners can serve as examples for other businesses to take up innovative technologies, systems and business models which will speed up and lower the cost of transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient, safe and sustainable economy.