Environment NGOs unite on threat to wildlife laws

12th May 2015

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  • Ecosystems ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • EU


Candice Dutton

The European commission's review of the birds and habitats directives is the "single biggest threat to nature and biodiversity in a generation", according to a coalition of 100 environmental organisations.

The coalition comprises the organisations belonging to Wildlife and Countryside Links across the UK, including Friends of the Earth (FoE), the National Trust, RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and WWF.

The group is “deeply concerned” by the commission’s consultation to review the directives as part of its REFIT programme, which aims to reduce regulatory costs.

The commission launched a consultation on the future of the legislation in April. It is seeking views on whether the directives have met their objectives, what the costs and benefits have been, and if positive outcomes could be achieved through national laws rather than EU-wide regulation.

In a joint position statement published this morning, the coalition argues that the directives are effective as long as they are implemented properly. The existing laws should be retained, with efforts focused on better implementation and more and better-targeted funding, it says.

This conclusion backs the findings of a review by environment department Defra in 2012, which found that “in the large majority of cases the implementation of the directives is working well”. Any delays experienced by developers were usually due to the complexity of the legislation and guidance, and lack of data, especially in the marine environment, the Defra study found.

Other UK government reviews, such as the balance of competencies review and the red tape challenge and the study mounted by the high-level taskforce for better regulation, have similarly concluded that the directives demonstrate benefits for Europe’s wildlife without placing unnecessary burdens on business.

The NGO position statement says: “We recognise that implementation of the directives is far from complete, and this, combined with poor implementation of national laws to protect nature, inadequate funding of conservation measures and the failure to address other UK government and EU policies, such as the flawed common agricultural policy, continue to drive the loss of biodiversity, means that further action is needed.”

Some members of the group, including FoE, are also working with European partners at Birdlife, EEB and WWF to promote a EU-wide response to the consultation.

FoE nature campaigner Sandra Bell said: “Our natural environment is vital to both our wellbeing and our economy – the EU should be strengthening its protection, not watering it down.

“With nature in decline across Europe we must send a loud and clear message to the European Commission that these crucial laws mustn’t be weakened,” she added.

The coalition has launched an online tool to encourage the public to get involved in the consultation, which is open till 24 July.

The Birds Directive was first adopted in 1979 and is designed to protect all wild birds and their most important habitats across the EU. The Habitats Directive, adopted in 1992, introduces similar measures for about 230 habitat types and 1,000 species of wild animals and plants.

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