EU countries failing to implement nature laws

5th October 2015

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



More than three-quarters of the EU's important natural habitats are classified as "unfavourable", with many species threatened with extinction, according to the European commission.

The findings came in the commission's mid-term review of the EU biodiversity strategy, which aims to halt biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystem services by 2020.

Much more needs to be done on the ground to translate policy into action, the commission said. It wants biodiversity to be integrated into policies on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, regional development and trade.

A number of EU policies to improve biodiversity have come into force, or are due to soon, the commission said. These include the reformed common agricultural policy (CAP) which was agreed in 2013; the EU green infrastructure strategy, which was launched in 2013; and regulation to fight the spread of invasive species, which entered into force on 1 January 2015.

However, the success of these measures will depend on how effectively countries implement them, the commission said.

Its progress report highlights intensive farming as a particular pressure on biodiversity, with no measurable improvement in the status of agriculture-related habitats and species covered by the Habitats directive since 2010.

The reformed CAP includes instruments, which can contribute to supporting biodiversity, but member states need to take these up on a sufficient scale, the commission said. Examples of successful sustainable agricultural practices that could put the EU back on track to achieve the target by 2020 if implemented more broadly are highlighted.

Other findings include:

  • 23% of EU-level species are classified as being in a "favourable" condition; 4% are unfavourable but improving; 20% are stable; 22% are deteriorating; and 14% are unknown. Freshwater species are the most threatened, particularly molluscs (55% of species) and fish (43%), followed by marine mammals (43%), amphibians (22%), reptiles (21%) and birds (18%).
  • Overall, 16% of EU-level habitat types are in a favourable condition and 4% are improving, while 33% are unfavourable but stable. A further 30% are still deteriorating. The EU target is for 34% of habitats to be in a favourable or improving condition.
  • EU forest area has increased since 2010, but the conservation status of forest habitats and species covered by EU legislation shows no signs of improvement.
  • Policy implementation of the reformed EU common fisheries policy is uneven across the EU. Just over 50% of stocks were fished sustainably in 2013, but achieving 2020 targets for marine and coastal biodiversity "remains a significant challenge".

European commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said: "There is no room for complacency - losing biodiversity means losing our life-support system. We can't afford that, and neither can our economy."

The commission has been reviewing the habitats and birds regulations to investigate whether the legislation and its implementation are proportionate and delivering as intended. The results will be published in the first half of 2016, it said.


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