EU policy opportunities for supporting the Habitats
MONITORING COMPLIANCE WITH AND EFFECTIVENESS OF THE
BIRDS AND HABITATS DIRECTIVES
51. We consider that the Commission should, in
monitoring and assessing compliance with the two Directives, adopt
a similar approach. However we were told by the EEA that the Agency
relies almost entirely upon Member States to provide the data
to do this. Little standardisation between Member States is yet
evident, with the result that it is difficult to compare and to
draw Europe-wide conclusions from the data gathering and monitoring
that does occur. The exception appears to be birds, for which
a common approach has often been adopted by NGOs and Member States.
52. The staff of the EEA and the Nature Conservation
Topic Centre in Paris are dedicated individuals who readily recognise
these shortcomings. We were left with the clear impression that
the resources to prepare standard monitoring programmes and to
negotiate them with Member States were inadequate, with the result
that there was little prospect of an early resolution of the problem.
Indeed, Mr Pritchard (DETR) considered that the Topic Centre was
"exceptionally under-resourced" (Q 729).
53. We cannot emphasise too strongly that
the purpose of the two Directives and other EC instruments beneficial
to biodiversity could be frustrated if good data upon which to
form decisions are not available. Furthermore we are unclear how
the effectiveness of existing EC policies can be evaluated unless
a serious attempt is made to standardise methods to monitor the
status of species and habitats.
54. This situation needs urgent attention
at the political level in the Union. We recommend that a well
resourced co-ordinated monitoring programme be a priority component
of the EC's developing Biodiversity Strategy.
OF MARINE AND COASTAL MATTERS AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL
55. Members of the Sub-Committee were concerned
to be told by the ETCNC that the Marine and Coastal Topic Centre
(based in La Spezia, Italy) did not consider biodiversity issues
or to the Habitats and Birds Directives to be within its remit.
As the ETCNC had no marine expertise, this meant the subject received
little attention (see, for example, QQ 5869, 5936).
There thus appears to be a vacuum within DG Environment and the
EEA at present. The Executive Director of the EEA acknowledged
this and told the Sub-Committee that steps were in hand to remedy
the deficiency over the coming 18 months. However the SubCommittee
was left with the clear impression that marine and fisheries issues
were seriously under-resourced and consequently not being addressed
in an integrated manner at the level of Community institutions.
There is a need for a single Topic Centre, adequately resourced
to advise on the full range of Natura 2000 sites, terrestrial
and marine, and with an extended remit to compare and evaluate
the Biodiversity Action Plans of the Member States with a view
to improving consistency of data and monitoring. We recommend
that the relationship between the Nature Conservation and the
Marine and Coastal Topic Centres be reviewed and rationalised
with this end in mind.
56. The Committee notes that, after four years'
work, the Commission has published a Communication on fisheries
and nature conservation in the marine environment.
There has been a LIFE
funded programme on the implementation of the Habitats Directive
in the marine environment
and, sponsored by the Commission and a UK charitable foundation,
a bilingual European newsletter on fisheries and the environment,
launched in 1998,
has now (in October 1999) reached its fourth volume. The issue
of fisheries and the Common Fisheries Policy is on the list of
sectors to be dealt with as a part of the high level "Cardiff
process" (initiated by the UK Presidency) on integrating
environmental considerations into other policy areas (see paragraphs 8
and 13). The Fisheries Action Plan is due to appear in the spring
of 2000. It will be a major challenge for the new fisheries Commissioner,
Franz Fischler, to take forward the agenda for integration. The
Government should encourage the Portuguese Presidency, in the
first half of 2000, to ensure that there is continuing importance
attached to the process of integrating CFP and other marine policies
with the EC Biodiversity Strategy.
EXPERTISE AND THE EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT AGENCY
57. The SubCommittee was concerned to
be told by the Executive Director of the EEA that the Agency had
no senior member of staff who was expert in agriculture, despite
having pressed for an appointment for three years. In view of
our comments about the key significance of agriculture for biodiversity
(see paragraphs 1524), we consider this lack to be serious
and call upon the Council to give the matter urgent consideration
when next reviewing the EEA's budget.
which can be used for enhancing biodiversity
58. In addition to the agri-environment schemes
(see paragraphs 17-24) and specific environmental Directives,
a considerable range of instruments is available under the CAP
and other programmes (notably the Structural Funds) which can
be deployed to the benefit of biodiversity (see table opposite).
Some Member States make more imaginative use of them than others.
We recommend that environmental and other Directives and regulations
should always be examined to see if in their application opportunities
to enhance the conservation of biodiversity can be taken.
Where nitrate "control measures" are required it may
well be cost-effective to consider "habitat-based" measureswhich
can also create amenity and biodiversity benefits, as well as
reduce nitrate pollution. This may be specially relevant given
the obligation to restore biotopes (including wetlands) contained
in the Birds and Habitats Directives.
59. The EC LIFE programme
has two components. The first deals with sustainable development
and supports innovative projects to demonstrate sustainable development
in practice. The second (LIFE-Nature Regulation 1973/92) is targeted
at securing the protection and enhancement of biodiversity, particularly
within the Natura 2000 network. During the period 1996-99 it had
an annual budget of Euro52 million.
60. The LIFE-Nature programme has assisted conservation
efforts in all Member States. Its importance, given the modest
size of the overall budget, is in providing pump-priming monies
and official encouragement to address difficult cross-sectoral
61. There is, however, far too little money in
the budget to underpin the management of the Natura 2000 network,
let alone address problems in the wider countryside. We agree
with the evidence from RSPB, WWF and others that it is therefore
necessary to make the mainstream CAP and Structural Funds work
in support of the conservation of biodiversity, rather than against
it (IR QQ 60, 61, 126). We were therefore disturbed
to hear from the European Environment Agency that some Member
States had used their influence to win some of the LIFE-Nature
budget for projects which did not address these priority actions.
We consider it is essential that the EC LIFE funds are increased
in order to help fund the restoration of damaged biotopes, the
protection of the Natura 2000 network and address the needs of
particular dispersed species which are not at a favourable conservation
WITH OTHER MEMBER STATESDENMARK AND IRELAND
62. Visits by members of Sub-Committee C
to Denmark and the Irish Republic proved valuable in demonstrating
how an integrated approach to environmental management can produce
multi-purpose benefits. Both Denmark and Ireland, like the UK,
have a well developed agricultural industry, with similarities
in land form, farm type and farming methods. The approach towards
tackling nitrates was particularly instructive. Details of the
visits are in Appendices 6 and 7.
63. The Committee's overall impression from the
visits was that whilst it was interesting to compare practice,
no ideal model emerged. There was a striking contrast between
(on the one hand) a highly decentralised system in Denmark, with
considerable powers devolved to autonomous agencies and the county
councilsonly broad policy being retained by central government,
and (on the other hand) the strongly centralised arrangements
in Ireland. In Denmark we also noted an orderly system of consultation
between politicians (national and local) and farmers, NGOs and
other interest groups, feeding in to a process of regular updating
of nature conservation legislation and other measures. In Ireland,
by contrast, there appeared to be little direct input from ministers,
the Dáil or the outside world generally, although we saw
no evidence to doubt that support for government nature conservation
policies in general is high.
|LIFE-Nature Regulation 1973/92
|Fund for specific projects to conserve the species and habitats of the Birds and Habitats Directives.|
|STRUCTURAL FUNDS Regulation 2081/93
|These four funds finance programmes both "horizontally" and in certain designated regions (Objectives 1, 2, 5b and 6). Programmes are drawn up by national and/or regional authorities and can support various aspects of environmental protection and nature conservation, as well as sustainable development. The environmental objectives or measures which may be financed, according to the Regulations covering each Fund, are summarised below.
|ERDF (European Regional
Development Fund) Regulation
|Productive investments and investment in infrastructure aimed at environmental protection, in accordance with the principles of sustainable development, in Objective 1, 2, 5b and 6 regions.
|ESF (European Social Fund)|
|Training and education which promotes employment in any field, including nature conservation. All regions.
|EAGGF (European Agriculture|
Guidance and Guarantee Fund)
|In Objective 1, Objective 5b and 6 regions, measures promoting the protection of the environment; the maintenance, enhancement and restoration of the landscape; and the protection and conservation of rural heritage. Objective 5a measures (all regions) are covered below according to specific CAP measures.
|FIFG (Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance) Regulation 2080/93
||Measures to help reach a sustainable balance between resources and their exploitation, including adapting fishing to the demands of EU environment policies. Also studies, demonstration projects and dissemination of information. All regions.
|INTERREG Official Journal C180 1.7.94 and C200 10.7.96
||Initiative for cross-border development including spatial planning and measures "compatible with the environment".
|LEADER Official Journal C180 1.7.94
||Local rural development projects in Objective 1, 5b & 6 regions. May include protection and rehabilitation of natural resources.
|PESCA Official Journal C180 1.7.94
||Diversification of the fisheries sector, fisheries management and other specific projects in Objective 1, 2, 5b and 6 regions.
|Large funds for Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland. Fifty per cent of expenditure should be on environmental measures, including projects which coincide with EU environmental policy priorities (e.g. Habitats Directive), funded at 80-85% of costs. Also studies, especially related to projects financed by this fund and/or to ensure their coherence with other Community policies, 100% funded.
|COMMON AGRICULTURAL POLICY
|The CAP is a combination of market and income support measures and "accompanying" measures (funded from EAGGF Guarantee Section) and structural measures (EAGGF Guidance Section). Relevant opportunities are summarised below. Unless indicated otherwise, all regions are eligible.
|Incentives to farmers for undertaking practices which benefit the environment, including nature conservation. Also training.
|Less Favoured Areas|
|These payments to farmers in designated LFAs may be adjusted in accordance with the use of farm practices which are compatible with protection of the environment.
|Afforestation of farmland and forest "improvement" Regulation 2080/92
||Can provide an incentive to farmers to recreate forest habitats on farmland or to promote sustainable forest management, although these aims are not mentioned specifically in the Regulation.
|Development of woodlands in rural areas Regulation 1610/89
||"Improvement" of woodland in Objective 1, 5b and 6 regions, including objectives of soil and water conservation and social and recreational functions. Also awareness and advisory campaigns.
|Farm investment aids Regulation 950/97
||Aids to farmers in all regions for investments which may include safeguarding the environment and preserving the countryside.
|CAP product support regimes
Regulations - various
|Environmental conditions can be attached to subsidies under certain regimes (e.g. beef, sheep and goat headage payments).
Reproduced with permission from Natura 2000: Opportunities
and Obstacles (WWF, Vienna, 1999)
64. Both countries were active in exploiting
the various available EC instruments. In Denmark the Committee
was struck by the ability of the authorities to link thinking
between pollution of surface and ground waters, land use and biodiversity.
In particular, it demonstrated the scope for making complementary
use of regulation and incentives to tackle problems of nitrates,
and also for meeting policy commitments to biodiversity and requirements
of the Birds and Habitats Directives. Particularly impressive
were some major river restoration projects which members of SubCommittee C
visited in Western Jutland (see Appendix 7).
65. In both Ireland and Denmark there are certain
basic statutory measures to protect and buffer water courses from
run-off and possible nitrate pollution. In Denmark it is forbidden
to plough within 2 metres of any ditch or watercourse. Alongside
lakes and major rivers a bigger "buffer zone" is required.
In Ireland this buffer strip is 1.5 metres, but farmers are not
permitted to apply fertilisers within 10 metres of a river bankextending
to some 300 metres around boreholes.
In both cases the management of these strips is done with fisheries
and biodiversity interests in mind. Whilst the SubCommittee
was unable to test the compliance with these measures, it was
told that farmers understood and accepted the reasons for such
66. In the light of our visits, we asked the
JNCC whether they felt their members had sufficient opportunities
to visit their counterparts in other Member States and to share
experience on best practice. It was clear that although contacts
were frequent, the agencies would welcome more systematic arrangements
(QQ 6745).We recommend that the DETR and the JNCC
should promote with the other Member States the idea that there
should be a regular forum in which statutory nature conservation
agencies could meet their counterparts from other States.
We would also like to see more opportunities for government officials
to observe practices in other Member States at first hand. We
appreciate that DETR officials visit the Commission and colleagues
in other Member States regularly. However, these meetings would
tend to be "across the desk" rather than on site. We
consider the benefit of seeing practical examples of how other
Member States tackle common issues cannot be overstated. To be
able to see new schemes or projects at first hand can trigger
ideas of benefit to the UK and we recommend that opportunities
of this kind are built into the work plans of the relevant key
staff of DETR and the devolved administrations.
67. In Ireland we were impressed by the use of
the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) to prevent ground
and surface water pollution, by ensuring fertiliser application
levels were targeted carefully to the soil, farming system and
local geography of each farm. One aspect of the REPS of particular
note was the care taken to develop a cadre of trained advisers
to assist with farm plans. We were told that attendance at a ten
week course, which covered both agronomy as well as biodiversity
management and environmental skills, was a prerequisite to adviser
accreditation. Only accredited advisers were permitted to produce
farm plans and REPS applications.
68. The aim was to ensure that real benefits
for conservation accrued at a farm level, and applications designed
simply to "chase grant" were excluded. The Irish officials
we met were pleased that the Commission now accepted this as an
important part of the overall REPS, and matching EC funds were
forthcoming. We consider that the provision of sound advice
to farmers and landowners is essential to win their support for
the conservation of biodiversity, particularly in the wider countryside.
Many organisations and agencies offer advice to farmers in the
UK, and an accreditation scheme comparable to that in Ireland
would encourage best practice and rapid dissemination of new techniques
69. In Ireland we were told that, as in the UK,
progress in the identification, selection and notification of
marine SACs was behind that for terrestrial sites. We were pleased
that co-operation between the Irish Government and the UK Joint
Nature Conservation Committee had led to an assessment procedure
that could be applied to the whole coastline of the British Isles.
However the overlap between the classification in the JNCC's Marine
Nature Conservation Review project
and the habitats listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive means
that further interpretation in the UK and Ireland is required
before the classification of marine SACs can proceed.
70. In Ireland this is now under way. We were
told of a process of evaluation to select sites which had a good
spread of listed habitats and the priority marine species listed
on Annex II of the Directive. All the listed habitats and species
would eventually be covered by marine SACs, although (as in the
UK) difficulties in determining boundaries for cetaceans, for
example, had still not been resolved.
71. In Denmark quite large areas of inshore and
coastal waters have been classified as SPA or SACrespectively
7,164 Km2 and 7,378 Km2 (there is a high
degree of overlap between the areas). These areas are highlighted
on local charts and fishermen are aware of them. However the view
is taken that for the most part existing fishing activity is acceptable
within the classified sites. Powers however do exist to review
or modify fishing methods if problems are encountered.
72. The position in Ireland concerning the management
of marine SACs is not, as far as we can see, much different from
that in the UK. The Heritage Department is in discussion with
the Department of the Marine to determine how best to notify users
of the sites and regulate activities such as aquaculture or the
use of potentially damaging fishing gear, etc. It was acknowledged
that fisheries legislation may need to be amended so that existing
powers can be applied to benefit wider biodiversity. Applying
this lesson to the United Kingdom, we recommend a review of
the powers of agencies in the devolved administrations responsible
for fisheries management to ensure that the powers are adequate
for furthering the conservation of biodiversity.
33 Communication on Fisheries Management and Nature
Conservation in the Marine Environment, COM (1999) 363. Back
See paragraphs 59-61. Back
A project to establish management schemes in selected marine SACs.
LIFE3200/96/550, commonly known as "the UK Marine SACs Project". Back
Esmée Fairbairn Charitable Trust, London. Back
El Anzuelo, published by
the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), London.
ISBN 14646749. Back
Birds Directive Article 3; Habitats Directive Article 3. See IR
paragraph 52. Back
EC Regulation 1973/92 establishing a financial instrument for
the environment, OJ L206 22 July 1992. The LIFE instrument assists
the development and implementation of EC environmental policy,
e.g. by funding preparatory measures, demonstration schemes, awareness
campaigns, incentives and technical assistance. Back
In the UK controls are less universally applicable. Buffer zones
to prohibit the use of certain pesticides within 6 metres
of watercourses were introduced by the Control of Pesticides Regulations
(SI 1986 No 1510). There are, however, no legal constraints on
use of fertilisers or manures except in areas declared as Nitrate
Vulnerable Zones (SI 1998 No 1202) or in some Environmentally
Sensitive Areas. (A recent amendment to the Pesticides Regulations
has introduced the concept of Local Environmental Risk Assessment,
which allows farmers to apply certain less damaging pesticides
within the 6 metre zone if certain conditions of soil and
weather and other relevant factors apply). Back
Hiscock K ed. (1996), Marine Nature Conservation Review:
Rationale and Methods, Peterborough, Joint Nature Conservation
Committee (Coast and Seas of the UK, MNCR Series). ISBN
Executive Order on the Demarcation and Administration of International
Protection Areas: Ministers of Environment and Energy Executive
Order no 782, 1 November 1998. Back
For example, the Sea Fisheries (Wildlife Conservation) Act 1992,
which requires Fisheries Ministers to have regard to conserving
flora and fauna. Back