EU guidance on new protected areas to help put Europe’s nature on path to recovery by 2030
The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 sets the target of protecting 30% of EU land and sea by 2030. One third of this, areas of very high biodiversity and climate value, should be under strict protection. To help Member States achieve these targets and develop a coherent, transnational network, the Commission developed criteria and guidance for the identification and designation of additional protected areas.
Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:
We depend on nature and we need to preserve it. Natura 2000 is the backbone of a trans-European nature network, but it needs to be complemented by areas protected at national level. Our guidance gives Member States tools to help them identify, designate and manage additional protected areas. We will continue working together to put Europe’s nature on a path to recovery by 2030, for the benefit of our planet and our economy.
The current network of legally protected areas is not sufficiently large to safeguard biodiversity at EU level. Additional designations will help to complete the Natura 2000 network and expand the national protection schemes. All protected areas will need to have clearly defined conservation objectives and measures. As the Biodiversity Strategy targets relate to the EU as a whole, every Member State needs to do its fair share of the effort based on objective ecological criteria, recognising that each country has a different quantity and quality of biodiversity.
The guidance document identifies a set of criteria that Member States may use for the identification of additional protected areas and establishes a process through which Member States’ pledges for new designations will be discussed, peer reviewed and improved so that the EU-level targets can be reached by 2030. It also provides a definition of strict protection and guidance to Member States on establishing appropriate management and monitoring for the existing as well as future protected areas.
Enlarging protected areas is also an economic imperative, as nature provides multiple ecosystem services: from food provision to water filtration, from air purification to carbon storage, from recreation to resilience to extreme weather events. The ecosystem services provided by the Natura 2000 network alone have been estimated at up to 300 billion euros a year. The investment needs of the network are expected to support some 500,000 additional jobs.
The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 adopted in May 2020 proposes ambitious EU actions and commitments to halt biodiversity loss in Europe and worldwide, in line with the European Green Deal.
The Strategy aims at putting Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, with a view to ensuring that by 2050 all of the world’s ecosystems are restored, resilient, and adequately protected. One objective of the Biodiversity Strategy is the establishment of a coherent network of protected areas. For that purpose, the Strategy sets targets of legally protecting a minimum of 30% of the EU land area and 30% of the EU’s sea area, to strictly protect at least one third of the EU’s protected areas, including all remaining EU primary and old-growth forests, and to effectively manage and appropriately monitor all protected areas by 2030.
The guidance document was developed in cooperation with the European Environment Agency and is the result of year-long discussions with representatives of the Member States and of stakeholder organisations.
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