30 years of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas and the LIFE program
To mark 30 years of the Natura 2000 network and the LIFE programme, a ministerial conference is being held today at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, co-organized by the French Presidency of the European Union and the European Commission. EU Ministers and Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, will participate in a ministerial session organized by the French Presidency, draw conclusions from the discussions and adopt a joint declaration.
Virginjus Sinkevicius noted:
The Natura 2000 network is now more important than ever. These protected areas ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats, preserving biodiversity and helping to mitigate and adapt to climate change. I warmly welcome today’s statement demonstrating our strengthened common commitment to EU biodiversity targets and I will strive to see this momentum also at COP15 on biodiversity.
Berangere Abbas, Secretary of State for Biodiversity of the French government, said:
EU Member States, together with the Commission and Parliament, are more determined than ever to work towards the protection of biodiversity and the restoration of natural areas in the long term. We welcome the fruitful exchanges between European ministers and experts which have enabled us to adopt the Strasbourg declaration today on the occasion of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Natura 2000 network.
The conference began yesterday with discussions on governance, efficiency, restoration and financing of the network, and the role of the LIFE program in its proper management. The role of Natura 2000 and the LIFE program in the implementation of the European Green Deal was another key topic of discussion, with a particular focus on the objectives of the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 aimed at biodiversity on the road to recovery by 2030, by expanding and effectively managing protected areas and stepping up nature restoration.
The Strasbourg Declaration, signed today by Ministers, underlines the commitment to significantly strengthen the implementation and application of the Birds and Habitats Directives and to support the objectives of the EU Strategy on biodiversity for 2030. It supports actions aimed at increasing the integration of biodiversity and calls for reflection on the opportunity and possible form of a financing tool dedicated to biodiversity at European level. Ahead of the crucial COP 15 meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, it calls on parties and organizations to join one of the main global coalitions (High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People or the Global Coalition United for Biodiversity) working to raise awareness of the need to protect biodiversity and recalls the commitment to rely on the Natura 2000 network and to ensure that all ecosystems in Europe and around the world are restored, resilient and sufficiently protected by 2050.
During the closing session, the major contribution of the LIFE program to the management of the Natura 2000 network and the Biodiversity Strategy will be highlighted through the launch of the LIFE Biodiv’Est Integrated Project. This ambitious project and the Finnish LIFE Biodiversea project are the two nature-oriented LIFE Integrated Projects to be launched this year.
About Natura 2000
Natura 2000 is the European Union’s network of protected areas. It is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world with around 27,000 land and sea sites, covering more than 18% of EU land and around 9% of the surrounding seas. It consists of a wide variety of different sites across the continent, aiming to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitat types, safeguarding them for future generations. . It also offers a wide range of products and services beneficial to society and the economy.
The Natura 2000 network is based on two pioneering European pieces of legislation – the Birds Directive of 1979 (updated in 2009) and the Habitats Directive of 1992 – and plays a key role in halting the loss of biodiversity in the EU. Although the network includes strictly protected nature reserves, the approach to conservation and sustainable use is much broader in the rest of Natura 2000, largely centered on people working with nature. Emphasis is placed on ensuring sustainable management, both ecologically and economically.
About the LIFE program
The LIFE programme, the EU’s funding instrument for environment and climate action,was established by the Habitats Directive in 1992. LIFE has strongly supported the implementation of the Natura 2000 network. It has co-financed conservation actions in more than 6,000 Natura 2000 sites and enabled the expansion of the marine Natura 2000 network, which has doubled in the past five years. LIFE projects have supported some 750 species and 5,400 habitats, through 1,800 projects worth €3 billion in EU co-funding. LIFE has also supported the purchase of around 200,000 hectares of land across the EU which has been permanently set aside for nature protection and restoration.