European Parliament shows real ambition on nature protection

credit: Mark Hamblin

A huge majority of MEPs from all political groups has sent a strong message to the Commission and Council today by adopting a key report which calls for more action to protect nature.

The text (1) deals with the European Commission’s Mid-term Review of the EU’s 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.

The European Parliament text calls for better implementation, enforcement and financing of the Birds and Habitats Directives, and for new legislation on environmental inspections, access to justice in environmental matters, and soil protection. MEPs also demanded the phasing out of environmentally-harmful subsidies (EHS) by 2020 and urged the Commission to step up the measures to green the European Semester. The Parliament also asked for a European initiative on pollinators to be launched without delay and for the Commission to maintain its ban on the use of neonicotinoids.

MEPs also encouraged the Commission to address biodiversity loss outside protected areas and sent a clear signal to the Commission that they oppose a revision of the Nature Directives on the grounds that this would bring about a protracted period of legal uncertainty and would be bad for nature, people and business (2).

Today’s vote follows on from a meeting of EU Environment Ministers last December who expressed similar views in the Council Conclusions (3) they adopted regarding the outcome of the ongoing evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives.

Leonardo Mazza, EEB Senior Policy Officer for Biodiversity and Ecosystems, said:

“MEPs have shown that they think EU nature laws are vital and that it is inconsistent implementation and inadequate financing which has hampered their effectiveness. This is a strong signal that the European Commission can’t ignore.

“The report adopted today also recognises the need to align other policies with the objectives of the Birds and Habitats Directives, in particular the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and its Bioenergy policy which continue to drive the degradation of our natural environment. It is important to acknowledge the link between policies which have detrimental impacts on biodiversity and the severe and chronic underfunding of nature conservation: the more time it takes to reform such policies, the more difficult and expensive halting the loss of biodiversity will become.”

Faustine Bas-Defossez, EEB Senior Policy Officer for Agriculture and Bioenergy, said:

“We welcome the adoption of this report because it recognises that without a safe and clean environment, farmers’ ability to produce healthy food is severely undermined, but fundamental contradictions in EU policies need to stop now. We can no longer afford having noble biodiversity objectives on the one hand and policies which undermine them on the other.

“The elephant in the room, the CAP, which costs citizens more than 50 billion euros a year does anything but ensure that money goes to those farmers who protect the environment. Despite recent claims that the policy is greener than ever, taxpayers’ money continues to fund a broken system which rewards the biggest polluters and lets Member States off the hook when it comes to rolling out greening measures.  In France alone the cost of unsustainable farming to the environment, and specifically the use of nitrogen pesticides, is an estimated 0,9 to 2,9 billion euros a year. It is high time to stop inefficient use of taxpayers’ money and secure the future of the natural resources farming relies upon. This can be achieved only if fundamental changes are made to our current agricultural policy”.

Today’s Parliament adoption comes after over half a million citizens across Europe expressed their support for nature laws during an NGO-led campaign (7) last year. 11 EU governments representing a majority of the EU population have also explicitly called on the European Commission to safeguard the Birds and Habitats Directives and step up their implementation (8).


Notes to editors:

(1) Read the full report adopted today
(2) The full outcome of the Fitness Check will be published in spring 2016.
(3) Council Conclusions
(4) Study: Green direct payments: implementation choices of nine Member States and their environmental implications, Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), September 2015
(5) Study: ‘Landscapes infrastructure and sustainable agriculture’ from the Institut für Agrarökologie und Biodiversität (IFAB), November 2015
(6) EU Rural Development Factsheet (tbc)
(7) Read more about the Nature Alert campaign.
(8) Belgium, Croatia, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain

For more information please contact:
Emily Macintosh, Communications Officer for Nature and Agriculture
00 32 2 274 10 86

For more information:

Emily Macintosh, Communications Officer - Nature and Agriculture

+32 2 274 10 86

European Parliament shows real ambition on nature protection
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