RSPB

The EU Nature Directives have provided the highest level of protection to vulnerable habitats and species for the past 30 years - but they're under threat.

These vital laws are being reviewed, and whilst the review is based on evidence, the decision on their future will inevitably be a political one.

You spoke up to defend them, and your voices had a huge impact. Together we've secured some really strong political backing for these laws, but their safety is yet to be assured.

Whatever the future holds, we'll keep supporting our BirdLife partners' fight to keep these laws strong and put fully into action for our shared wildlife. The Nature Directives will continue to set the standard for nature protection laws, and to matter hugely for those UK birds that migrate to visit us each year.

The story so far

Latest blog posts

Our in-depth report looks at how the EU nature directives help restore our environment. It sets out eight steps for implementing the directives in the UK to make the most of their benefits for wildlife, people and business.

Download the report

Why defend nature? Watch the video

Collective response to the consultation

As well as asking the public for their thoughts, the Commission has consulted expert stakeholders in each country. The RSPB is one of 100 UK environmental NGOs working in coalition to defend the Habitats and Birds Directives. As the 'Joint Links', we collectively submitted a UK NGO-sector response to the European Commission's consultation on the review of the Directives supported by more than 500 pieces of evidence.

If you'd like to find out more about our expert response, we've published it in full on the Wildlife and Countryside Link website.

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+See the answers we gave to the consultation

Question 1: How important is nature conservation to you?

Very important

Question 2: How familiar are you with EU nature conservation measures?

  • Birds Directive: Slightly familiar
  • Habitats Directive: Slightly familiar
  • Natura 2000 network of protected areas: Slightly familiar

Question 3: How important to nature conservation are the Birds and Habitats Directives?

Very important

Question 4: Are the Directives' strategic objectives appropriate for protecting nature in the EU?

Very appropriate.

The Nature Directives aim to improve the fortunes of nature-rich habitats and species. The vision they describe is supported by nature organisations across the EU.

Question 5: Is the approach set out in the Directives an appropriate way to protect species and habitats in the EU?

Very appropriate

The Nature Directives require EU countries to establish strict rules protecting all of Europe's wild birds and a wide range of other threatened species, and to identify and protect important areas of natural habitat.

Question 6: Have the Directives been effective in protecting nature?

Very effective

The area of nature-rich habitat protected in Europe has increased dramatically thanks to the Directives. Scientific studies show that some threatened wildlife has started to recover following protection under the Directives.

Question 7: How important is the Natura 2000 network for protecting threatened species and habitats in the EU?

Very important

The Natura 2000 network comprises some 27,000 areas of nature-rich habitat covering approximately 18% of the EU and over 4% of its seas. Evidence shows that these sites have been behind the recovery of some of Europe's most threatened species.

Question 8: How do the costs of implementing the Birds and Habitats Directives compare with the benefits from their implementation?

The benefits of implementation far exceed the costs

Studies show that the benefits from the Nature Directives substantially outweigh the costs. As well as protecting wildlife, Natura 2000 sites provide a range of other benefits.

Question 9: While the Directives are primarily focused on conserving nature, to what extent have the following been taken into account in implementing them?

  • Economic concerns - Very well
  • Social concerns - Very well
  • Cultural concerns - Very well
  • Regional characteristics - Very well
  • Local characteristics - Very well

This legislation accommodates well Europe's diversity of socio-economic concerns, governance structures, local cultural preference and traditions.

Question 10: Do EU policies in the following areas generally support the objectives of the Birds and Habitats Directives?

  • Agriculture & rural development - No
  • Fisheries & maritime - Could contribute more
  • Cohesion (regional) - Could contribute more
  • Energy - No
  • Transport - No
  • Environment - Yes
  • Industry/enterprise - Could contribute more
  • Climate change - Could contribute more
  • Health - Could contribute more
  • Research & innovation - Could contribute more

Many pieces of EU environmental law support the Directives but others give nature organisations concern. EU agriculture policy pushes farming intensification and fails sustainable farmers. Energy policy, despite attempts to focus it on promoting sustainable renewable, still supports fossil fuels and has been subsidising biofuels despite negative impacts on biodiversity. Transport policies have been pushing poorly-located infrastructure development with little regard for habitats and species.

Question 11: To what extent have the Directives provided more value than could have been achieved through national or regional laws in this area?

Significant added value

As nature knows no borders, to be effective nature conservation action must be coordinated at international level, justifying an EU-level approach. There has been a step-change in nature conservation efforts in Europe thanks to the Directives.

Question 12: To what extent have the Directives added value to the economy (e.g. job creation, business opportunities linked to Natura 2000)?

Significant added value

By ensuring the same clear rules apply to all businesses, and by attracting visitors and tourists, the Directives have added significant value to the economy. In fact, the value of the economic benefits provided by the Natura 2000 network has been estimated to be in the order of €200 to €300 billion per year.

Question 13: To what extent have the Directives brought additional social benefits (e.g. health, culture, recreation, education)?

Significant added value

Thanks to the Directives, nature-rich habitats have been protected for both current and future generations to learn about and enjoy. There is strong evidence linking contact with a healthy natural environment to a range of physical and mental health benefits.

Question 14: Is there still a need for EU legislation to protect species and habitats?

Yes

The Directives were adopted to address failures and inconsistencies in national nature protection laws. The justification for EU-level action on biodiversity conservation remains as strong as ever. The next step should be to ensure the Directives are fully enforced in every country in the EU.