PART 2: THE EVIDENCE
AND THE COMMITTEE'S OPINIONS
and Policy Integration
11. An overview of the
challenges facing the European Union in developing a Community
strategy for biodiversity has been given by the Executive Director
of the European Environment Agency:
| "Biodiversity may be one of the most difficult tasks for the Agency. It has had an enormous struggle to get out of a tunnel vision, as this has meant producing reports which some would say go beyond Community competence. But knowledge is no threat to subsidiarity! The June Report (Environment in the European Union at the turn of the century) has tried to broaden the vision, and has had some success because production was shared with the different sectors within the Commission.|
"Member States still have a long way to go in integrating biodiversity with other policies, but prospects have improved since the Cardiff Summit, with the requirement for sectoral Councils (transport, energy and agriculture) to report back on integration at Helsinki in December. The environment hasn't improved sufficientlyend of pipe solutions are being in part neutralised by economic factors. So far the biggest success has been in limiting some projects through environmental impact assessment.
"For Natura 2000 purposes most Member States are proposing sites which are already designated for nature conservation purposes, and few are creating new sites as a result of the Birds and Habitats Directives. The EEA has been taking the line that Natura 2000 is only part of the biodiversity agenda: there is a need for a much broader approach, which takes in corridors, diffuse habitats, semi-natural areas, etc. How, for instance, can various instruments, such as LIFE and CAP, be used to protect species and habitats outside the designated sites? It is understandable that the Commission attaches priority to completing the Natura 2000 network: the Agency would argue that you cannot monitor biodiversity through Natura 2000 alone. There is also the risk of complacency once the network of sites has been designated: the future management of sites is crucial, as is the capacity to adapt to change.
"Enlargement is a real challenge, and up to now nature conservation has been poorly addressed. Simple compliance with EC Directives is not enough: there is a need to establish an inventory in accession countries. Legislation is not the whole answer.
"One of the biggest unrecognised emerging problems is fragmentation of spacei.e. by transport infrastructure, disseminated occupation, or urban and rural sprawl, leading to fragmentation and loss of habitats. The Mediterranean coast in particular is a disaster, with threats from second homes, tourist resorts, new infrastructure and other forms of development, driven also by easier access to remote areas. For instance, sales of four-wheel drive cars have gone up by over 40 per cent over the past year, opening up remote areas in some countries.
"Mapping can be a powerful tool in convincing people what is happening. Climate change will provide leverage for shifts in energy and transport use, but will have less leverage for nature conservation policy. Here the more immediate impacts will be decisions on land use planning and transport infrastructure. These raise difficult issues of subsidiarity and compliance for all Member States."
ACTION PLANS AT INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL LEVEL
12. As we explained in our Interim Report (paragraphs
7-8), an important feature of the Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD) is that the EC is a signatory of the Convention in its own
right. This means that there is a parallel process whereby EU
Member States draw up national biodiversity action plans (BAPs)
as parties to the CBD, whilst at the same time contribute collectively
to the EC Biodiversity Strategy. As the IEEP has commented, the
preparation of species and habitat action plans under the UK Biodiversity
Strategy has emphasised the need for action beyond the Natura
2000 network of protected sites (IR p 71).
13. Agriculture, forestry,
fisheries, development control and the management of water resources
are matters of special significance to the maintenance and sustainable
use of biodiversity. Following from the Amsterdam Treaty and the
Cardiff Summit, the Community has recognised that it must take
biodiversity and environmental issues into account in all its
policy making. We look to the Government and territorial administrations
of the UK to build on their existing policies to achieve this.
A PARTICULAR ISSUE FOR THE UNITED KINGDOM
14. Much of the direct
action necessary to implement the Birds and Habitats Directives
will be the function of competent territorial authorities. Similarly
the UK BAP requires action in all four countries of the UK. We
were told by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) that they
were unable to undertake all the necessary actions required of
them by the UK BAP (Q 667). There is therefore a requirement
for strong political oversight to ensure that policies are integrated
with the needs of biodiversity. At all levels, at Westminster
and in the devolved administrations, concerted action to complete
the UK share of the Natura 2000 network and to develop the UK
BAP will be required. As was pointed out to us by witnesses from
the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR),
it is the UK Government, not the devolved administrations, that
would be brought before the Court of Justice in the event of alleged
failure to comply with the Directives (IR QQ 339-342).
The UK Government, and the devolved administrations, will want
to be assured that all Ministers,
including those with responsibilities for agriculture, transport,
education, industry and (above all) public expenditure and fiscal
matters, are properly advised on policy issues relating to biodiversity.
The staff of biodiversity policy units in each national and devolved
department should liaise closely with JNCC, the relevant country
statutory nature conservation bodies and relevant conservation
non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in their areas.
2000 and the special significance of agriculture
15. The role of agriculture
as the largest land use in the EU (more than 60 per cent across
the Community, and over 70 per cent in the UK) is central to safeguarding
biodiversity in Europe. Many of the Natura 2000 sites are farmed,
usually in an "extensive"
manner, and the continuation of appropriate farming is essential
to maintain their value for biodiversity. The modernisation and
specialisation of farming continue to pose a threat to biodiversity
in some areas. However, the growing problem of neglect, or even
the agricultural abandonment, of formerly farmed areas within
such habitats, such as chalk grasslands, lowland heaths or certain
wetland habitats, pose a growing threat to species. These are
examples affecting critical UK habitats, but the same problem
is found in other parts of Europe where agriculture helps sustain
important biodiversity features (IR Q 151).
16. The Agenda 2000 reforms
go only part of the way towards reforming the CAP, as we noted
in the Interim Report (paragraph 36). Nevertheless they confirm
the importance of the agri-environment measures and will allow
Member States to impose cross-compliance conditions (i.e. conditions
or requirements on agricultural support) in order to protect the
17. The present UK agri-environment
schemes (Environmentally Sensitive Areas, the Countryside Premium
Scheme, Countryside Stewardship, Tir Gofal, etc) appear to be
popular with farmers and have the support of conservationists;
but they are under-funded compared with some other EU Member States
(see next paragraph and box). We detected a reluctance to invest
further in these measures, funding of which is of course discretionary.
It was put to the SubCommittee informally that an indirect
consequence of the "abatement" agreed at the 1984 Fontainebleau
Summit was that, even in Objective 1 areas (such as the Highlands
and Islands), there was a disincentive to increase UK government
expenditure on EC agri-environment measures. We have not been
able to explore this assertion in detail; and therefore do not
feel it would be appropriate to offer an opinion. We have reproduced
in Appendix 8 a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food (MAFF), covering an extract from a memorandum
prepared for the House of Commons Agriculture Committee, which
attempts to throw some light on the issue.
18. Estimates by the former DG VI (Agriculture)
indicate that in 1998 Ireland spent approximately Euro35 annually
per hectare of utilisable agricultural landat least four
times that of the UK. Even this, however, was much less than the
corresponding expenditure in Austria or Finland (see box).
|Total co-financible expenditure per hectare of utilisable agricultural area
|<= Euro 5
||Greece, Belgium, Spain|
||United Kingdom, France|
||Denmark, Italy, Ireland|
|(EU median c Euro22)
|Source: DG VI Commission Working Document
VI/7655/98: State of Application of Regulation
(EEC) No. 2078/92: Evaluation of Agri-Environment Programmes.
19. Distinctive arrangements within each country
of the UK are now evolving, some of which may be less well financially
supported than others. Such variation in different incentives
to farmers to conserve biodiversity on a country or regional basis
could have detrimental effects on the UK's overall targets. It
is a situation which needs to be carefully monitored by Government.
A central biodiversity policy unit (building on the existing
UK BAP process) charged with monitoring and reporting on progress
with the UK BAP should be established, with the task of reporting
to both Houses of Parliament, to the Scottish Parliament and to
the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies.
20. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC),
the National Farmers' Union and WWF, among others, told us of
their concerns that funding for agri-environment schemes was inadequate
(IR pp 5-6, 190-191, Q 511). The Country Landowners'
Association (CLA) said it would prefer a "substantial transfer"
of resources to agri-environment schemes, with corresponding simplification
of support regimes (IR p 214). The Minister (Mr Morley)
referred to planned increases in the budget for agri-environment
schemes during the period 1999-2001 but said he would like to
do more (Q 617).
21. In the Committee's view, the medium term
goal must be to continue to seek fundamental reform of the CAP.
However, as an interim measure, cross-compliance
offers an opportunity to use "main stream" funds to
encourage practices which help protect and conserve biodiversity
(IR QQ 34, 157). Cross-compliance measures are already
in place to prevent overgrazing in the uplands, under the Hill
Livestock Compensatory Allowances (HLCA) scheme. We were told
by CCW that this was now being used to address the serious problems
which affect important upland areas near Snowdonia for example
(QQ 704-7). Elsewhere in the UK witnesses have not been able
to tell us of extensive use of these powers by MAFF or the Scottish
Executive's Rural Affairs Department to protect heather moorlands
or other important grazed habitats. This apparently low rate of
take-up perhaps indicates a lost opportunity.
22. We consider that a package of incentives
(e.g. through agri-environment schemes), regulation and good advice
can be further developed by the agriculture departments of the
UK to reward farmers for undertaking nature conservation management
in the interests of biodiversity. As Mr Morley said: "We
would like to do more and expand these schemes significantly"
(Q 617). We endorse the Minister's aspirations and therefore
recommend that MAFF and the relevant devolved administrations
consider such a programmeapplicable to all farmersto
improve and reward positive management, and to prevent the further
loss of habitats and species in the countryside.
23. Until CAP reform is successful the agri-environment
programmes will continue to be vitally important measures for
protecting biodiversity. Across the UK, agri-environment budgets
would need to grow between three or four times to equate to the
spend of the median group of Member States. We therefore recommend
that the agri-environment programme budgets of each country within
the UK be steadily increased. The EC median spend of about Euro22
per hectare of utilisable agricultural land would be a good target.
24. Overgrazing in
the uplands in particular should be the subject of a major review,
with a view to bringing hill livestock numbers and management
into line with the carrying capacity of semi-natural habitats.
The planned removal of 1,500,000 sheep, to combat over-grazing
on the commonages in the Irish Republic,
demonstrates how large the problems can become. Such measures
should be considered alongside schemes to assist livestock producers,
so that the package of support is sustainable.
OF MARINE SITES
25. We have already remarked in our Interim Report
(paragraphs 53-7) on the difficulties facing Member States in
protecting biodiversity in the marine environment generally, and
in identifying and declaring SACs and to a lesser extent SPAs.
26. The history of legislation in the marine
environment in the UKand, we were told, in Irelandis
based largely on the exploitation of minerals or fisheries or
on securing navigation. There is no history comparable with that
on land of declaring protected areas or regulating commercial
activities for reasons of the conservation of biodiversity generally,
rather than say to protect specific fish stocks.
27. The question whether EC conservation Directives
apply beyond territorial waters (the 12 mile limit) is a
matter of controversy. The Commission recently issued a Communication
expressing the view (inter alia) that "if a Member
State exerts its sovereign rights in an exclusive economic zone
of 200 nautical miles (for example, the granting of an operating
licence for a drilling platform), it thereby considers itself
competent to enforce national laws in that area, and consequently
Habitats Directive also applies, in that Community legislation
is an integral part of national legislation".
The matter was also the subject of a recent legal challenge, in
which the High Court held, in favour of Greenpeace, that the obligations
of the UK Government under the Habitats Directive were not restricted
to the 12 nautical miles of territorial waters but applied to
the whole of the 200-mile band within which the UK exercises sovereign
of the Community
28. The EEA, and other
witnesses, including the RSPB in supplementary written evidence
(pp 55-7), have emphasised how enlargement of the Community
will bring in new areas of rich biodiversity. The habitats of
plants and animals, particularly in areas where endemic or specialised
species occur, such as in mountain ranges in the candidate states,
will have to be surveyed and catalogued early in the process.
This in turn should lead to appropriate amendments to the Annexes
of the Habitats and Birds Directives. We recommend that an
early programme of habitats and species surveys is supported by
the Community to ensure that the baseline data to make sensible
decisions are available prior to the accession of the candidate
states. It is not too soon for the EU to be encouraging candidate
states, and providing the necessary funding, to press ahead with
identifying sites that would qualify as candidate SPAs and SACs,
so that other important social and economic programmes can be
integrated with the EC Biodiversity Strategy from the outset.
29. Experience to date has shown that this process
can be protracted and heavily demanding of money, people and skills,
even in countries with well developed protected area strategies
and competent government agencies to take the lead. The most important
areas for wild birds in Europe (including Central and Eastern
Europe) are being catalogued by BirdLife International and its
but an equivalent NGO effort for other groups or key habitats
has not yet been developed.
30. The economies of
the Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) will benefit
from membership of the European Union. Certain funding arrangements
are already in place to help prepare the CEECs for membership.
We are concerned to ensure that these funds are applied in a manner
which does not replicate some of the more perverse and damaging
impacts that have occurred in some existing Member States.
The identification of important areas for the conservation of
biodiversity is a critical first step, and, together with the
development of environmental NGOs, and the application of appropriate
environmental tests to projects and plans in receipt of EC funding,
should become the norm in these countries. In short, the same
environmental framework should apply to the use of EC funds within
the CEECs as applies now within the Union.
31. Support for infrastructure projects, particularly
road building, has been a major component of EC funding for the
CEECs to date.
We were shown by the Executive Director of the EEA how, unfortunately,
road building and other infrastructure projects in CEECsmuch
of it the result of local initiative but also including projects
supported by EC structural and related fundshave impacted
deleteriously on biodiversity (see map opposite and box at paragraph
11. An overview of the challenges facing the European Union in developing a Community strategy for biodiversity has been given by the Executive Director of the European Environment Agency:).
Extensive natural habitats have become fragmented by uncontrolled
development in rural areas and the biodiversity resource thereby
32. Investment in modernising agricultural production
and re-structuring the industry could have serious impacts on
biodiversity in the CEECs (IR QQ 128, 132). This must
be considered carefully when extending agricultural incentives
and conservation regulations to candidate states. We recommend
that the agri-environment measures be an essential factor in any
farm support system extended to the candidate states.
Indeed, if these measures were to be linked to action to anticipate
implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, they would
encourage the maintenance of those farming systems which help
to safeguard biodiversity both within and outside the protected
33. Without such action, we fear that considerable
damage could occur before important areas are fully documented
and appropriate protection measures implemented. We understand
the Commission is offering limited financial support (SAPARD)
for agricultural modernisation and rural development, including
agri-environment programmes. However we are concerned that this
may be insufficient and poorly targeted.
34. As we pointed out in our 1998 Report on
the Tacis Programme,
there is widespread awareness
in the CEECs and New Independent States (NIS) of the richness
of their natural heritage. This is greatly to be welcomed. The
rapid growth of NGOs in the 1990s has helped to increase awareness.
What is needed now is to develop the capacity and expertise of
NGOs so that they can begin to play the same sort of role that
NGOs such as WWF and RSPB play in identifying candidate Natura
2000 sites. As we have indicated in paragraph 28, the early identification
of sites is crucial The Commission should therefore provide for
further promotion of skills and professionalism in conservation
NGOs through Phare, Tacis and other EC programmes (cf
15 Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán, 30 September
1999 (in conversation with members of SubCommittee C) Back
By this term, we mean Secretaries of State and Ministers of the
Westminster Government, Secretaries and others of ministerial
standing and, where relevant, Chairmen of Parliamentary or Assembly
committees in the devolved administrations. Back
In this Report we use this term, and the corresponding term "extensification",
in a quasi-technical sense-i.e. to refer to farming which relies
on low inputs of inorganic fertilisers, pesticides or capital
investment in drainage, machinery and other infrastructure (the
opposite of "intensive farming"). Back
See, for example, ECC 18th Report, 199798, CAP Reform
in Agenda 2000-The Transition to Competition: Measures for Rural
Development and the Rural Environment, HL 84. Back
See paragraph 16 above. Back
See Appendix 7. Back
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European
Parliament: Fisheries Management and Nature Conservation in
the Marine Environment, COM(99)363 Final, 14 July
1999, at paragraph 5.2.2. Back
R v. Secretary of State for Trade and Industry ex parte Greenpeace;
judgment of Mr Justice Maurice Kay, 5 November 1999. Back
See, in particular, Tucker, G M and Heath, M F (1994) Birds
in Europe: their conservation status. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife
International (BirdLife Conservation Series no 3). Back
For example, river canalisation and land drainage schemes carried
out in Denmark in the 1960s to support high-yield arable production-now
being reversed at considerable expense (see Appendix 7). Back
Funding for Sustainable Transport, BirdLife International,
Brussels, and IEEP, London (1997)-a review of inward investment
in Western and Eastern Europe. Back
In a previous Report (Enlargement and CAP Reform, 12th
Report, 199596, HL 92) the Committee was highly sceptical
about the extension of the CAP as it then was to the candidate
Special Action for Pre-accession measures for Agriculture and
Rural Development. Back
ECC 33rd Report, 1997-98, Partnership and Trust: the Tacis
Programme, HL 157. Back