520,325 people called on the European Commission to save Europe’s nature laws in a public consultation – by far the highest number of responses ever reached in the history of the EU. The public consultation formally closed at midnight on Sunday, July 26.
In May, major environmental organisations launched the ‘Nature Alert’ campaign in response to the EU Commission’s suggestion to evaluate whether the existing EU nature laws should be changed. The campaign makes the case for improved implementation and enforcement of existing rules set out by the laws – known as the Birds and Habitats Directives.
Alongside more than half a million citizens, over 120 environmental NGOs have sent a clear message to European decision makers: EU nature laws should not be changed. The laws protect over 1,000 key species and over 27,000 natural sites in Europe. They have been credited with saving a number of iconic species native to Europe such as the Grey Wolf, the White-Tailed Eagle and the Common Seal. As a result, the EU is now home to the world’s largest network of protected areas, Natura 2000, which covers almost a fifth of the EU’s land.
Scientific evidence shows that the laws effectively protect key endangered species and threatened habitats, and contribute to the socio-economic development of local communities and regions.
In parallel with the public consultation, the Commission has consulted with a wide range of stakeholders including national authorities, land users, the business community and environmental NGOs. The vast majority of evidence submitted supports the Directives and points at the need for better implementation and enforcement and for increased funding for conservation. Very few stakeholders have called into question the Directives in their current form and requested a revision of the laws, essentially: some players in the farming sector, the association of private forest owners and the industrial fishing lobby.
At the other end of the spectrum strong support for the Directives has been expressed by other businesses, notably: the Cement industry, Electricity grid operators, Organic farming and Tourism.
Geneviève Pons, Director of WWF European Policy Office said on behalf on the Nature Alert NGO coalition: “At a time when the European Union is severely tested, the overwhelming support from all corners of the continent for Europe’s nature laws demonstrates that people can get together and defend what really matters to them. Europeans care about their nature, and the Union’s laws that protect it. Now, it is time for the Commission to listen to the evidence and draw up a plan for nature protection based on more funding and stronger law enforcement.”
The official analysis of the consultation is likely to be published in autumn 2015 and a final decision on the future of the laws is expected by June 2016.