I am deeply alarmed that the laws protecting our most important nature sites and wildlife species, the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, are under threat as part of a review by the European Commission, called the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). This is worrying because pressure is growing to weaken EU laws that are providing enormous benefits to people and the environment. I think you will agree that nature is good for us: wetlands help protect us from floods, well managed forests help tackle climate change, provide timber and support nature and biodiversity, and regular time spent in nature is important for our health and wellbeing. Therefore halting and reversing biodiversity loss to preserve our environment, society and economy is of the utmost importance. However, nature in the UK, across the rest of Europe and the wider world is in trouble. Unsustainable exploitation, habitat loss and fragmentation and climate change are all driving the decline of biodiversity. This is in spite of political commitments at national, EU and international level, including halting biodiversity loss by 2020.
The Birds and Habitats Directives are the vital foundation for nature protection, attempting to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity in the UK and across Europe as a whole. They ensure that the most important places for nature in Europe are identified and given legal protection (by being made Natura 2000 sites), and they set out requirements to restore and manage these vital wildlife habitats. The Directives also offer vital protection to more than 1,400 rare or threatened species (including whales, dolphins and porpoises) by ensuring they are protected in these Natura 2000 sites and in the wider environment. If the Directives were to be changed, this could be very bad.
Scientific evidence demonstrates that these Directives have delivered positive benefits for Europe’s wildlife, for example they have been instrumental in the recovery of several iconic species including Bittern, Grey Wolf, Iberian Lynx and the Moray Firth bottlenose dolphin population, and a series of reviews at UK and EU level have concluded that they do so without placing an unnecessary burden on business.
The reviewing process of the Directives started in January 2015 and will take over a year, but you can express your opinion right now, because the European Commission is running a public consultation to suss out how important nature protection and its laws are to EU citizens.
Your participation really is important, because we need as many people as possible to tell the European Commission to defend the Directives, and therefore the protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises. By taking part, you will be helping to show that people across Europe want nature to be better protected through keeping our laws intact and strong. The importance of the Directives to EU citizens and their support for natures is one of the key points that the European Commission must take into account in deciding whether to maintain or weaken them.
It takes just seconds to take part. You won’t have to spend a lot of time answering their questions yourself, as the action will send a pre-prepared questionnaire response to the European Commission in your name. Experienced nature experts from Birdlife Europe, European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, and WWF filled in the answers to the key questions asked by the Commission to make it easy for citizens to send a response defending nature and the Directives.
You can read the questions and the answers to make sure that you agree with what has been written before you take the action. If you don’t agree with the answers, or you’d like to add some more information, you can go directly to the European Commission site and fill in the questionnaire yourself.
This is the main, if not only, opportunity for the public to have their say in this important debate on the future of Europe’s nature, so please make your voice heard.