Tackling Biodiversity Loss: Support for the EU Action Plan for Nature, People and the Economy

Feuchtgebiet, Müritz-Nationalpark, Mecklenburgische Seenplatte, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Deutschland

Biodiversity describes the enormous variety of ecosystems, species and genes that surround us. However, the richness of life on Earth is under threat. The rate of loss not only of habitats and species but also of entire ecosystems has risen alarmingly since industrial times. Current extinction rates are 100 to 1000 times higher than the natural rate, and 60% of the world’s ecosystems are now degraded or being used unsustainably. The latest assessment of biodiversity in the EU awarded only 16% of habitats protected by EU legislation a favourable conservation status. The Birds and Habitats Directives (the 'Nature Directives'), including the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, are the EU’s main policies for tackling biodiversity loss.

However, despite the nature directives and the overarching European Biodiversity Strategy, no significant progress has been made over the last few years towards the strategy’s headline target of preventing further biodiversity loss in Europe. For this reason, the European Commission carried out a “fitness check” to examine whether EU nature legislation remains fit for purpose. The fitness check concluded that, while well designed, significant problems undermine the implementation of the nature directives across all EU member states.

In April 2017, in response to the fitness check, the European Commission adopted the Action Plan for Nature, People and the Economy. The plan addresses the issues identified by the fitness check, and proposes several solutions for the smart and effective implementation of EU nature legislation. From 2018 to mid-2020, adelphi lead a consortium providing the European Commission with technical and scientific support to actions 1, 2 and 13 of the Action Plan for Nature, People and the Economy. Together with three partner organisations, adelphi updated the guidance documents on key provisions of the Habitats Directive relating to the management of Natura 2000, in particular the assessment of plans and projects that may affect Natura 2000 sites (Art. 6), and on species protection provisions (i. a. Art. 12). The Action plan recommended, among other things, to improve access to information, and help governments and stakeholders exchange knowledge and experiences. The project therefore also aimed to make the guidance documents accessible to a wider audience. This involved ensuring the documents are available in a range of EU languages and more widely disseminated. In addition, adelphi developed a mechanism for peer-to-peer exchange of good practices between member states. In collaboration with the European Committee of the Regions and national authorities of member states, adelphi organised a series of events and workshops to facilitate knowledge exchange, and the engagement of local and regional authorities in the implementation of EU nature legislation.