People’s support for nature has won in the Berlaymont | WWF

People’s support for nature has won in the Berlaymont

Posted on 12 December 2016
Lynx lynx
© Tomas Hulik / WWF
By Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources, WWF European Policy Office

Nature won, together with over half a million people who stood up for it! Last week, WWF in Europe – together with its partner NGOs – celebrated an amazing victory: we have managed to stop attempts to weaken the EU Nature Directives, the cornerstone of nature conservation in Europe.

Ever since taking office in 2014, the European Commission under President Juncker has attempted to dilute and undermine key environmental legislation in Europe, in guise of its so-called ‘better regulation’ agenda. The first such attack – and one which was largely seen as a reference for future reviews of other EU legislation – came in the form of a ‘Fitness Check’ of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

This meant putting at risk over 30 years of work by member states to protect endangered habitats and species across Europe by building the world’s largest network of protected areas, Natura 2000. It meant a threat to species like the brown bear, the white-tailed eagle, the lynx or the saimaa seal that had recently recovered from the brink of extinction.  It meant taking away our hope that one day, we could halt the ongoing dramatic loss of biodiversity on our continent.

The NGO NatureAlert campaign to save the Directives was supported by more than 200 international and national organisations and mobilised over half a million people in the biggest public consultation the EU had ever seen. This also resonated in the European Parliament and in European capitals.

Finally, after two years of campaigning, the European Commission decided last week that the Nature Directives were indeed ‘fit for purpose’ and won’t be changed. It even went further to announce an action plan to ensure that the legislation was better implemented and enforced across the European Union and to tackle the real drivers of biodiversity loss, such as industrial agriculture. This is an amazing success!

However, to save Europe’s nature, we have plenty more work to do, and 2017 will be crucial to ensure that the European Commission and national governments work together to tackle the challenges.

WWF will push for an ambitious action plan to ensure the legislation works on the ground. And we will also continue to defend EU environmental legislation against any further attempts of roll-back in the guise of ‘cutting red tape’!