In close co-operation with the EU’s assembly of local and regional leaders, the European Commission today adopted an Action Plan to improve the implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives – also known as Nature Directives. The Plan aims 'to help regions defend biodiversity and reap the economic benefits of nature protection'. Local and regional governments have welcomed this inter-institutional cooperation which it hopes will set a benchmark for other areas where cities and regions hold large competencies such in the case of EU environmental law.
“ Local and regional governments are on the frontline in conserving our nature and protecting our biodiversity which is why our Committee has actively worked with the project team of EU Commissioners to develop this Action Plan. It is a step in the right direction and, as the EU's political assembly representing cities and regions, we will support its rollout and actively engage local and regional authorities as part of our efforts to reach our biodiversity targets for 2020 ", said Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the European Committee of the Regions' (CoR) First Vice-President.
The Plan directly engages the CoR in four of the fifteen actions:
Action 1 : The development of site permitting procedures, species protection and guidance as well as the integration of ecosystem services into decision-making;
Action 6 : Bringing together biogeographical regions to address common challenges;
Action 13 : Support knowledge exchange and engagement of local and regional authorities through a joint platform - in line with the already existing CoR/EC Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment ;
Action 14 : Support recognition of good management of Natura 2000 sites and awareness-raising of the Nature Directives through relevant fora, availing of new technologies and outreach activities, strengthen links between natural and cultural heritage, especially in the context of 2018 as European year of cultural heritage’.
The newly released Action Plan has four priorities and a total of 15 concrete actions to be carried out by 2019.
Karmenu Vella , Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs said: “ The Action Plan identifies ambitious implementation improvements of the Nature Directives. The best way to protect future generations is to involve young people. Our new European Solidarity Corps does just that. Member States' local and regional governments can lead the way in implementing this and the other policies necessary to protect our natural heritage ".
The Nature Directives are the cornerstone of Europe’s legislation on nature conservation, protecting around 2,000 of Europe’s most vulnerable species and habitats. The Directives established Natura 2000, the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. It covers 24% of EU’s land and sea and alone contributes between 1.7% and 2.5% of EU GDP. The cost of implementing of Natura 2000 has been estimated at EUR 5.8 billion per year, while its annual benefits are estimated at EUR 200-300 billion.
The Directives have been through a two-year Fitness Check to assess their effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and added value. The European Commission positively responded to the CoR's call to work on an action plan instead of making revisions in law ( opinion by rapporteur Roby Biwer (LU/PES), Member of Bettembourg Municipal Council, December 2015). The CoR is currently contributing to the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) of other directives via an opinion being drafted by Andrew Cooper (UK/EA), Member of Kirklees Council, to be adopted in October 2017.
For More Information
European Commission Press Release: New Action Plan to help regions defend biodiversity and reap the economic benefits of nature protection
Action Plan for nature, people and the economy
Conference: "An EU Action Plan for nature, people and the economy" – European Committee of the Regions, Brussels, 6 June 2017
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