Europe and Central Asia

Funding Natura 2000


    Funding Natura 2000

    The Natura 2000 network is the cornerstone of EU biodiversity policy. However, like other protected areas, the Natura 2000 network needs funding in order to achieve its goals. Given that biodiversity is unequally distributed throughout the EU, the Habitats Directive foresees a role for the EU in co-financing the implementation of conservation measures, to ensure that sufficient funding is available across the EU.

    With only a small part of the EU budget, we can make the Natura 2000 network deliver on its objectives. The investments needed for good management of the Natura 2000 network are estimated to be less than 6 billion EUR annually for the whole EU. At least 50% of the investments should come from the EU budget, so around 2-4% of the EU budget.

    Current funding levels are deeply inadequate. A study by the IEEP and others has estimated that only around 9–19% of the funds needed for managing the Natura 2000 network were available in the period 2007–2013. The LIFE fund is very important for conservation action in Natura 2000, but it is too small to cover the management of the entire network.


    Natura 2000 funding - country fact sheets

    Investments in nature conservation are value for money. Investing now in safeguarding and restoring functioning ecosystems and biodiversity provides high returns. The total value of contribution of the Natura 2000 network to the EU economy is estimated to be around 200–300 billion EUR, which means that the Natura 2000 network generates economic benefits around seven times higher than its total cost.

    In addition, Natura 2000 has the potential to create employment even if this is not its primary aim. Investing 1 billion EUR in the Natura 2000 network can create five to nine times more jobs than investing in the current agriculture subsidies (29 000 jobs compared to 3 000–6 000 jobs). Investment in the Natura 2000 network would also lead to diverse types of employment, including increasing jobs in the agricultural sector.

    It is clear that the 2014-2020 EU budget, also for Natura 2000, has not seen the profound transformation that was called for. Read more about that here.


    LIFE programme

    Spoon-billed Sandpiper © John O'Sullivan

    The LIFE programme is the only area of European spending that is dedicated solely to the EU’s environment and nature conservation projects (as well as projects in some candidate, acceding and neighbouring countries).

    A subcomponent of LIFE, LIFE nature and biodiversity, supports projects that contribute to the implementation of the EU's Birds and Habitats Directives (the Natura 2000 Network), the integration of biodiversity into other policy areas, the assessment and monitoring of pressures on biodiversity and its response to those pressures.

    The LIFE programme represents a major contribution to the EU's goal of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2020 and also plays a key role in maximising the leverage effect of the EU budget.

    The projects delivered under the programme have provided value for money, secured and created jobs, have helped to establish innovative projects across the EU and have delivered successful results on the ground. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 4171 projects, contributing approximately €3.4 billion to the protection of the environment and climate. More details here.

    At a time when the value for money of EU policy instruments, and their ability to deliver results on the ground, is under intense scrutiny, the LIFE programme is a shining example of EU action that works, and that should be supported by increasing its budget to 1% of the MFF. This would make at least €1 billion/year available for measures on biodiversity and would fund 15-20% of the annual costs of implementing the Natura 2000 network, estimated by the European Commission to be around €6 billion each year.

    LIFE programme - Briefings


    Cohesion Policy

    Belgium © Diane Appels

    The main pressures and drivers causing biodiversity loss are well known and include habitat loss or change, introduced species, pollution, over-exploitation, and climate change. The principal pressure is habitat fragmentation, degradation and destruction due to land-use change. Nearly 30 % of the fragmented EU land is mostly due to urban sprawl and infrastructure development.
    Urban sprawl, for example, can impact land changes through the transformation of urban-rural linkages. Infrastructure development involves both settlement expansion as well as the expansion of transport networks.

    Making better use of the €326 billion Cohesion (regional) Policy (in 2011 prices), second largest EU fund, will be a decisive tool for shaping EU’s future resource efficient and low carbon economy. It could play a crucial role in steering local economies and in accelerating the transition progress towards building sustainable economies within ecological limits. While the total budget can only serve as catalyst to a transition towards a low carbon economy it is crucial that funding is concentrated while allowing for regions to support their potential.

    Download: briefings and position papers

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.