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New study confirms EU Nature Laws’ effectiveness


18 May 2016


Climate & Environment

As if more evidence was needed, a new paper [1] just published in Conservation Letters by scientists at the RSPB [2] Centre for Conservation Science (BirdLife’s [3] UK partners) further hammers home that the EU Nature Directives make a significant contribution to the EU’s ability to meet its international biodiversity obligations, and are thus not only ‘fit for purpose’ but a critical way forward for the continent’s future sustainability.

Despite overwhelming endorsement of the Nature Directives by Member States in the European Council, the European Parliament, and over half a million citizens who spoke up for nature, the European Commission is still dragging its feet in endorsing the laws as they stand and strengthening their implementation. Required to undertake a rigorous ‘fitness check’[4] to show that the laws were ‘fit for purpose’, the European commission perhaps hoped in the process to create a back door for watering down the Nature laws and allow for their weakening. Instead, science and the evidence submitted by governments, businesses, and civil society has clearly demonstrated they are effective where implemented, and urgently in need of better and more effective implementation.

The paper, builds on existing scientific evidence supporting the Directives and for the first time reveals how the Nature Directives fully 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), many of them otherwise unprotected, are partly or wholly covered by the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, created by the Nature Directives. The impact of the Nature Directives extend beyond just nature conservation; as 65% of EU citizens live within 5 km of a Natura 2000 site, and 98% within 20 km, it has been shown these sites are likely to raise necessary awareness of biodiversity and to deliver ecosystem services to a high proportion of the EU’s population.

And in the critical commitments the EU has made to mitigating climate change, the research also confirms that the Nature Directives help by storing carbon. 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

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy at BirdLife Europe stated: “We repeatedly provide new scientific evidence to the European Commission that the Nature Directives are “fit for purpose” and ready for full implementation. 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. We have provided all the evidence, what is the Commission waiting for?” ENDS


For further information, please contact:

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy, BirdLife Europe


Phone: +32 (0) 2 238 50 92


Dr Paul Donald, Principle Conservation Scientist, RSPB Centre for Conservation Science


Phone: +44 (0)1767 693063



[1] The study "The Contributions of the EU Nature Directives to the CBD and Other Multilateral Environmental Agreements" is available online

[2] The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a member of BirdLife International, a partnership of conservation organisations working to give nature a home around the world.

[3] BirdLife Europe is a Partnership of nature conservation organisations in 47 countries, including all EU Member States, and a leader in bird conservation. Through its unique local to global approach BirdLife Europe delivers high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people.

[4] For more information about the European Commission’s “fitness check” click here:

520,000 citizens and 120 environmental NGOs participated in the public consultation on the “fitness check”: