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Biodiversity Action Plan for the Conservation of Natural Resources

The Commission evaluates Community environmental legislation and initiatives and proposes additional measures to make maximum use of these instruments in order to put the objectives set out in the Community biodiversity strategy into practice. The aim is to improve or at least maintain the status of wild flora and fauna and their ecosystems and habitats.

ACT

Commission Communication of 27 March 2001 to the Council and the European Parliament: Biodiversity Action Plan for the Conservation of Natural Resources (Volume II) [COM(2001) 162 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This communication is the second volume of the Commission Communication of 27 March 2001 on Biodiversity Action Plans in the areas of Conservation of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Development and Economic Cooperation. This volume is specifically dedicated to the conservation of natural resources.

Introduction

In recent decades, the rate of decline and even disappearance of species and related habitats, ecosystems and genes (i.e. biodiversity) has increased throughout the world. This loss of biodiversity is deplorable in itself and has adverse effects on economic development since it is the basis for the food, fibres, drink, medicines, industrial processes, agriculture and fisheries activities we rely on for our survival.

In February 1998, the Commission adopted a communication on a Community strategy for biodiversity. This strategy already provided for special action plans for the areas of activity concerned to be set up and implemented. This communication sets out the Action Plans in the areas of Conservation of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Development and Economic Cooperation.

The Community Biodiversity Strategy and the Action Plans are covered by the European Union commitment to achieve sustainable development and integrate environmental concerns into other sectoral policies and other policy areas.

Indicators will be used for the long-term monitoring and benchmarking of Action Plan implementation. These indicators, which still have to be specified by the Commission with the help of the Member States, scientists and organisations concerned, will be measured locally and results compared.

The European Community clearing house mechanism (EC CHM) is an invaluable resource for exchanging information on biodiversity. It should be supported and developed further.

The Commission is currently identifying biodiversity conservation research needs so as to include them in the Sixth European Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.

The Commission plans to set up a Committee of Experts on Biodiversity which would disseminate information and strive to ensure that European and national measures are complementary. Representatives of NGOs, industry, associations and any other interested parties would be invited to attend committee meetings as observers.

The natural resources volume of the communication stresses the following objectives: conservation of wild fauna and flora, preventing biodiversity loss related to the management of water, soil, forests and wetlands, preventing biodiversity loss throughout EU territory and conserving biodiversity worldwide. These objectives are explained in detail below.

The conservation of wild fauna and flora

The communication sets three main priorities to meet the objective of maintaining or improving the conservation status of natural habitats and wild animal and plant species: application of the Habitats and Birds Directives, establishment of networks such as Natura 2000 and financial and technical support for them, and formulating special action plans for threatened and huntable species.

The Communication highlights the objective of transposing the Habitats and Birds Directives properly into national legislation by 2002. It envisages a monitoring system with guidelines addressed to States and, moreover, the option of taking legal action against them. The annexes to both Directives will have to be amended in order to protect and take account of biodiversity in European Union candidate countries.

The communication sets the objective of adopting the list of Natura 2000 sites for all biogeographical regions, including forested areas, by the end of 2002. Guidelines will be drawn up for the administration of the network. The Commission will favour funding Natura 2000 through LIFE-Nature projects. The Commission points out the need for Community programmes to make an explicit commitment to protect the Natura 2000 network.

The Commission will finalise the Action Plans for the most threatened bird species and huntable species. Under international conventions, it will also collaborate in framing special action plans for threatened species other than birds.

Preventing biodiversity loss related to the management of water, soil, forests and wetlands

The communication proposes a three-pronged approach to reverse the current trends of biodiversity loss related to management of water, soil, forests and wetlands: using the Water Framework Directive, enhancing the ecological function of land cover and protecting wetlands.

The Water Framework Directive will be used as a tool for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. For every river basin, analyses will be carried out of water quality and quantity versus demand, and also water needs for irrigation, energy generation, drinking water consumption and industrial and ecological uses.

An information base will be set up and a public awareness campaign on the need for soil protection will be launched in order to enhance the ecological function of land cover to combat erosion. It will become mandatory to check the quality of the end-products of sewage sludge and biodegradable waste treatment. A communication will be published on the proper use of pesticides. Forest biological diversity will be included in rural development plans.

The Commission will protect biodiversity in wetlands through initiatives under Natura 2000, the Water Framework Directive and the Strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management.

Reversing biodiversity loss across the whole territory

The communication highlights the following priority actions to develop instruments to improve the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity on territory located outside protected areas: taking account of biodiversity in policies affecting soil such as agricultural policy, fisheries, aquaculture, Structural Funds and the urban environment, and incorporating biodiversity in cross-sectoral environmental measures.

In order to integrate biodiversity into cross-sectoral environmental measures, the objectives and actions detailed in the communication are based on the precautionary principle, environmental liability, environmental impact assessment, strategic environmental assessment, public participation and access to information, eco-labelling, eco-auditing and the strategy for EU chemicals policy.

The actions on genetic resources outlined in the communication address alien invasive species, GMOs, zoos and botanical gardens.

Conserving biodiversity worldwide

The communication sets forth objectives and actions for the conservation of biodiversity worldwide targeted at applying the EC CITES Regulation, improving coordination within international forums in the fields of climate change, ozone layer depletion and desertification, and identifying interactions between the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international agreements in order to optimise the opportunities for synergy.

RELATED ACTS

Commission Communication of 21 December 2005: Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources [COM(2005) 670- Not published in the Official Journal].
This strategy creates a framework for action to reduce the burden on the environment from the production and consumption of natural resources without penalising economic development. Concerns about resources will be addressed in all relevant policies and specific measures will be put into effect, notably the setting up of a centre for data and indicators, a European forum and an international expert group.

Last updated: 31.08.2006
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