The Laws of Nature

14th September 2016
News Item

An Taisce were present at the Actions for Nature Conference on the 14th of September hosted by the European Environmental Bureau.

The EU's target of halting biodiversity loss by 2020 remains a serious challenge. Europe's biodiversity continues to be dangerously eroded through habitat loss, pollution, over-exploitation of resources, invasive alien species and climate change. But it doesn't have to be this way. At the Actions for Nature conference representatives from across the EUs environmental NGO community demonstrated how targeted, well-crafted and well-enforced policies can start to turn this around. The conference was another opportunity to progress the needed debate on the enforcement and implementation of EU nature laws, ways to tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss and methods for scaling up financing to manage and restore Natura 2000 sites.

The conference also marked the launch of a new publication "The Laws of Nature" which we was jointly produced with BirdLife, FoEE and WWF. The report highlights key actions which need to be taken to better protect nature in Europe. According to the report the Birds and Habitats Directives (here referred to as ‘Nature Directives’) are widely recognised as the cornerstone of EU-wide efforts to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity. The nature conservation framework they establish underpins the effective protection of rare or threatened species within the EU across their natural range, and has led to the designation of NATURA 2000, the largest network of protected areas in the world, currently covering 18% of Europe’s land and 6% of its seas. Thanks to the Nature Directives, threatened species such as the brown bear, the wolf, and the lynx are back from the brink of extinction.

Although scientific evidence demonstrates the Nature Directives are effective when properly implemented, many Member States have not fully and effectively implemented their legal commitments under the Nature Directives. As a result, much of Europe’s biodiversity is still in decline, and the EU risks missing its 2020 target of halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services1. Only 23% of animal and plant species and 16% of habitat types protected under the Habitats Directive have a favourable conservation status2. A crucial step towards achieving the 2020 target is therefore for the EU to fully implement the Nature Directives.

However, this alone will not be enough, as policies that affect biodiversity in the wider landscape, such as those addressing agricultural practices and infrastructure development, also have an important role to play in addressing on-going biodiversity decline. Lack of targeted funding to secure ecological recovery remains also a major barrier3.

The European Commission is currently carrying out a Fitness Check of the EU Nature Directives to evaluate whether the Directives are "fit for purpose" or should be changed. Many Member States, the European Parliament, progressive business, NGOs and more than half a million citizens have stood up for the Nature Directives, acknowledging that a revision of these Directives would create a long period of legal uncertainty and damage the fragile recovery of species and habitats in Europe, as well as jeopardise achieving the Biodiversity Strategy towards 2020.

The Directives must not be revised; instead the focus must be on full implementation, increased funding for nature conservation, and fully addressing the drivers of biodiversity loss in the wider countryside.