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 the laws that protect our nature, and your voices have made a huge impact. Together we've secured some really strong political backing for these laws, but the results of the review are yet to be announced.We'll be keeping up the pressure on the European Commission until these laws are safe and put fully into action everywhere.
The story so far
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The Directives play a vital role in ensuring much-needed housing in the Cairngorms can be delivered without harming vital nesting grounds, such as those used by the capercaillie.
Happily, following reintroduction programmes and strict legal protection from the Nature Directives, the magnificent red kite is now a common sight.
The Friends of North Kent Marshes explained parts of this key habitat, which they know and love and is home to the water vole, would not exist without the Nature Directives.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This legislation accommodates well Europe's diversity of socio-economic concerns, governance structures, local cultural preference and traditions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.