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EU Guidelines on climate change and Natura 2000

With nature our best ally to fight the the climate crisis in Europe – the Natura 2000 network stores around 9.6 billion tonnes of carbon – the European Commission issued a guidance document Guidelines on Climate Change and Natura 2000: Dealing with the impact of climate change on the management of the Natura 2000 Network of areas of high biodiversity value to help all managers of protected areas.

There is mounting evidence of the impacts of climate change and the need for the European Union to take integrated action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This has not only economic and social implications but is also of major importance for the environment, including biodiversity.

The EU biodiversity strategy, ‘Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020’, underlines the importance of addressing climate change in the EU. Central to achieving the EU 2020 biodiversity targets is the effective management of areas of high biodiversity value, protected in the Natura 2000 network designated under the Habitats and Birds Directives. Sites in the network provide space for nature, but they must be protected and enhanced as part of the broader issue of managing the entirety of Europe’s green infrastructure. These sites are also central to ensuring that biodiversity is able to adapt to a changing environment, particularly as a result of climate change. Over time, the species and
habitats present at any individual site may change, but the suite of sites in both the terrestrial and marine environment will remain essential safe havens for Europe’s biodiversity. However, the issue of climate change has not yet been adequately considered within the framework of management and restoration of Natura 2000.

In delivery of the EU Biodiversity Strategy the Commission has published a Communication on Green Infrastructure ((COM(2013) 249 final) ), which provides an enabling framework for nature-based solutions. This guidance sets out an important part of Green Infrastructure; to enhance the role of nature based adaptation for the coherence of the Natura 2000 network. This guidance document is intended to be bound by, and faithful to, the text of the Birds and Habitats Directives and to the wider principles underpinning EU policy on the environment and renewable energies. It is not legislative in character, it does not make new rules but rather provides further guidance on the application of those that already exist. As such, it reflects only the views of the Commission services and is not of a legally binding nature. It rests with the EU Court of Justice to provide definitive interpretation of a Directive. Wherever relevant, existing case law has been included when clear positions have already been taken by the Court.

Purpose

These guidelines are primarily aimed at Natura 2000 site managers and policy makers. The purpose is to underline benefits from Natura 2000 sites in mitigating the impacts of climate change, reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience, and how adaptation of management for species and habitats protected by Natura 2000 can be used to tackle the effects of climate change.

Legislation

The document also does not replace the Commission’s existing general interpretative and methodological guidance documents on the provisions of Article 6 of the Habitats Directive1. Instead, it seeks to clarify specific aspects of these provisions and place them in the context of wind farm development in particular. The present guide is therefore best read in conjunction with the existing general guidance and the two Directives.

Source – European Commission

Verde Environmental Consultants are highly experienced and qualified to carry out Appropriate Assessments. We have completed Appropriate Assessments and Natura Impact Statements (NIS) for numerous projects in terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments across Ireland.

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