The Laws of Nature | WWF

The Laws of Nature

Posted on 18 November 2016
The Laws of Nature are vital to protect our nature in Europe.
The Laws of Nature are vital to protect our nature in Europe.
© WWF
The Birds and Habitats Directives (here referred to as ‘Nature Directives’) are widely recognised as the cornerstone of EU-wide efforts to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity. The nature conservation framework they establish underpins the effective protection of rare or threatened species within the EU across their natural range, and has led to the designation of NATURA 2000, the largest network of protected areas in the world, currently covering 18% of Europe’s land and 6% of its seas.

Thanks to the Nature Directives, threatened species such as the brown bear, the wolf, and the lynx are back from the brink of extinction. Although scientific evidence demonstrates the Nature Directives are effective when properly implemented, many Member States have not fully and effectively implemented their legal commitments under the Nature Directives. As a result, much of Europe’s biodiversity is still in decline, and the EU risks missing its 2020 target of halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Only 23% of animal and plant species and 16% of habitat types protected under the Habitats Directive have a favourable conservation status. A crucial step towards achieving the 2020 target is therefore for the EU to fully implement the Nature Directives.

However, this alone will not be enough, as policies that affect biodiversity in the wider landscape, such as those addressing agricultural practices and infrastructure development, also have an important role to play in addressing on-going biodiversity decline. Lack of targeted funding to secure ecological recovery remains also a major barrier.

The European Commission is currently carrying out a Fitness Check of the EU Nature Directives to evaluate whether the Directives are "fit for purpose" or should be changed. Many Member States, the European Parliament, progressive business, NGOs and more than half a million citizens have stood up for the Nature Directives, acknowledging that a revision of these Directives would create a long period of legal uncertainty and damage the fragile recovery of species and habitats in Europe, as well as jeopardise achieving the Biodiversity Strategy towards 2020.

The Directives must not be revised; instead the focus must be on full implementation, increased funding for nature conservation, and fully addressing the drivers of biodiversity loss in the wider countryside. 

Read how the Commission and Member States can effectively save Europe's nature now! 
The Laws of Nature are vital to protect our nature in Europe.
The Laws of Nature are vital to protect our nature in Europe.
© WWF Enlarge