EU’s Action Plan “for nature, people and the economy”
Following the long evaluation process of the Natura 2000 Birds and Habitats Directives and the conclusions published at the end of last year, the EU Nature Directives are fit for purpose, although substantial improvements in their implementation are needed. Following this result, the European Commission has just launched an Action Plan “for nature, people and the economy”. The aim of the Action plan is to provide guidance for better implementation of the Directives, towards reaching the EU’s biodiversity targets for 2020 of halting and reversing biodiversity loss and improve climate resilience and mitigation.
The action plan covers 4 priority areas and its divided into 15 concrete actions. Although most of the actions will be performed by the European Commission and Committee of the Regions, support from member states and relevant stakeholders will be needed. The Commission believes that “the action plan will lay a solid foundation for reconciling and building bridges between nature, people, and the economy.” The EU Action Plan will be presented at a conference on the 6th June 2017 in Brussels.
Overview of the Priorities
Priority A: Improving guidance and knowledge and ensuring better coherence with broader socioeconomic objectives
Actions included in this priority aim at dissolving tensions between nature protection and socioeconomic activities, through smarter participatory processes. This will be achieved through greater involvement with landowners and users; better access to information and data for the implementation of the Directives; and recognition of how healthy ecosystems contribute to wellbeing and economic development.
Priority B: Building political ownership and strengthening compliance
This priority involves completing the Natura 2000 network, strengthening Member’s states compliance with the Nature Directives and developing action plans for threatened species and habitats.
Priority C: Strengthening investment in Natura 2000 and improving synergies with EU funding instruments
There is a massive gap between costs of implementing Natura 2000 (around 5,8 billion/year) and the benefits arising from it (estimated in 200/300 billion/year). This priority previews in one hand a strong reinforcement in nature – through the support of State members in their financial plans; increase of LIFE programme budget and Horizon 2020; and stimulation of the private sector to take part in nature conservation activities. On other hand, previews better synergies between the Common Agricultural Policy and the Fishery policies; and support on the implementation of green infrastructures and connectivity.
Priority D: Better communication and outreach, engaging citizens, stakeholders and communities
The European Commission together with the Committee of Regions will use all available platforms to raise awareness and promote local involvement and exchanges of knowledge. This priority previews also a higher recognition on good management practices in Natura 2000 areas and the development of the European Solidarity Corps.
EUROPARC, through the work of its Commissions, will be the voice of Protected Areas and Natura 2000 sites, sharing good practices from our network and promoting the important role of Protected Areas for a healthier, greener and economically viable Europe. Moreover, EUROPARC will seek to support Natura 2000 managers increasing efficiency in the management of their Protected Areas, through the development of digital learning tools – such as webinars and toolkits – and the organisation of networking events across Europe.
What is the status of Europe’s Biodiversity?
According to the European Commission communication from the 27.04.2017: only around half of the birds and a smaller proportion of the other protected species and habitats in the EU have good conservation status today. The Natura 2000 network is now largely in place on land but important gaps remain in the marine environment. Only 50 % of all Natura 2000 sites have management plans with conservation objectives and measures.
However, the Fitness Check has shown that where targeted action takes place on a sufficient scale, the status of species and habitats improves, sometimes leading to remarkable recoveries. Moreover, there is increasing recognition that our natural environment underpins various sectors of our economy such as tourism. Conserving and using it sustainably are more important today than ever before.