Europe and Central Asia
19 May 2016

New study confirms EU nature laws’ effectiveness

A pair of Arctic Foxes. The new paper shows how EU nature laws help it achieve its international biodiversity objectives. Photo: Eric Kilby/Flickr
By Zeynep Karasin

A new research paper, just published in the journal Conservation Letters by scientists at the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) Centre for Conservation Science, is the latest in a line of scientific evidence that proves the EU Nature Directives – the Union’s core nature laws – are vital to the EU’s ability to protect its wildlife and meet its international biodiversity obligations.

Despite the abundance of proof and overwhelming endorsement of the Nature Directives by Member States in the European Council, by the European Parliament, and by more than half a million citizens who spoke up for nature, the European Commission has been delaying releasing the results of a fitness check of the nature laws. The European Commission perhaps hoped to create a loophole for watering down the EU Nature Directives and allow for their weakening, rather than endorsing the laws as ‘fit for purpose’, strengthening their implementation and improving their funding (which is what governments, businesses, citizens and scientists have asked for).

The paper builds on existing scientific evidence supporting the Directives and for the first time reveals how they complement and directly contribute to achieving the EU’s obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).

For example, 92% of the EU’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are partly or wholly covered by the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, created by the Nature Directives. But the impact of the nature laws extends beyond just wildlife conservation and is felt directly by people as well. Sixty-five percent of EU citizens live within 5 km of a Natura 2000 site, and 98% within 20 km; these sites are likely to raise necessary awareness of biodiversity and to deliver ecosystem services (such as access to clean water and protection from floods) to a high proportion of the EU’s population.

The research also confirms that the Nature Directives help mitigate climate change by acting as carbon sinks. Estimated below and above ground carbon stocks per unit area in Natura 2000 sites are 43% higher than the average across the rest of the EU.

“We repeatedly provide new scientific evidence to the European Commission that the Nature Directives are ‘fit for purpose’ and ready for full implementation,” Ariel Brunner, senior head of policy at BirdLife Europe, said. “This new study by the RSPB confirms that with fully implemented Nature Directives, EU Member States will be able to meet their international biodiversity obligations… what is the Commission waiting for?” 

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Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.