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#EUNatureActionPlan - Revised guidance on managing protected Natura 2000 areas

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As part of the EU Action Plan for Nature, People and the Economy, the European Commission has published an updated guidance for member states' authorities, stakeholders and EU citizens on how to conserve and manage Natura 2000 network of protected areas.

Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: “With this updated guidance document we're helping to ensure that EU nature laws deliver for nature, people and the economy. The sound management of the Natura 2000 sites is essential for the maintenance and enhancement of our European biodiversity, ecosystems and the services they provide on which some 4.4 million jobs in the EU are directly dependent. I trust that this document will be of great use for the management of Natura 2000 sites, helping to better reconcile nature protection with different economic activities for the broader benefit of society."

Natura 2000 established under the EU's Birds Directive and Habitats Directive is a EU-wide network of over 27 500 terrestrial and marine sites covering more than 18 % of land area and is the centrepiece of the EU's nature and biodiversity policy.

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While national and regional authorities are primarily responsible for the implementation of EU nature legislation, today's guidance provides added clarity to help member states to improve application of provisions around permitting procedures (Article 6 of the Habitats Directive). Through clear and accessible explanations, the Commission anticipates to reduce administrative burdens, streamline procedures across member states, and enhance overall implementation on the ground for the benefit of nature, people and the economy.

More information is available in the news item.

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Biodiversity: New report shows progress made on invasive alien species but challenges remain

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The European Commission has published the first Report on the application of the Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Regulation, which aims to minimize the threat posed by these species to native animals and plants. The report finds that the IAS Regulation is delivering on its objectives, as prevention and management measures, information-sharing and awareness of the problem have improved. Yet, implementation is a challenge in several respects. Environment, Fisheries and Oceans Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: "Invasive alien species are a major driver of biodiversity loss in Europe. Today's report shows that taking action at EU level has real added value. This Regulation will be an essential tool to continue to address this threat and put biodiversity on the path of recovery under the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.”

The projected increase in global trade and travel, together with climate change, are expected to increase the risk of the spread of invasive alien species for instance plants such as the water hyacinth, and animals like the Asian hornet or the raccoon. This may lead to increased adverse impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, human health and the economy. Based on the analysis of data from 2015 to 2019, the report shows that Member States have often taken effective measures to prevent the intentional or unintentional introduction of invasive alien species of concern into the EU. Nevertheless, the report also reveals that that there remain numerous challenges and areas for improvement. The Commission will take steps to improve compliance with the IAS Regulation. More information is in this news item.

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BIOSWITCH research analyzes Irish and Dutch consumer perspectives of bio-based products

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BIOSWITCH, a European project that seeks to raise awareness among brand owners and to encourage them to use bio-based instead of fossil-based ingredients in their products, has carried out research to understand consumer behaviour and perspectives of bio-based products. The study consisted of a quantitative survey among 18-75-year-old consumers in Ireland and the Netherlands to gain an understanding of consumer perspectives in relation to bio-based products. All the results were analysed, compared, and compiled in a peer-reviewed paper that can be consulted in this link.

“Having a better understanding of consumers perception of bio-based products is crucial to help to boost the transformation from a fossil-based to a bio-based industry, support Europe’s transition to a low-carbon economy and help to meet key sustainability targets,” said James Gaffey, co-director of the Circular Bioeconomy Research Group at Munster Technological University. Some of the main findings in the study indicate that consumers in both countries have a relatively positive outlook regarding bio-based products, with Irish consumers, and especially Irish females, showing a slightly more positive position.

Moreover, Irish consumers also have a slightly more positive perception that their consumer choice can be beneficial for the environment, and overall, are more willing to pay extra for bio-based products. Price was indicated by consumers in both countries as a key factor influencing the purchase of bio-based products, and around half of the interviewees are unwilling to pay more for bio-based products. Likewise, consumers in both countries are most likely to buy bio-based products from the same product categories, the main ones being packaging products, disposable products, and cleaning, hygiene, and sanitary products.

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A green premium is most likely to be paid for categories such as disposable products, cosmetics and personal care. Consumers in both countries appointed at environmental sustainability as a significant factor when choosing between products; however, terms such as biodegradable and compostable carry more weight than the term bio-based among consumers, indicating that more work needs to be done to improve consumer knowledge and understanding of bio-based products. Despite this, the overall indication of consumer preference for bio-based over fossil-based products was clear, as 93% of the Irish respondents and 81% of the Dutch ones said that they would prefer buying bio-based products
This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 887727. rather than fossil-based products. Nearly half of them were even willing to pay a bit more for the bio-based alternatives.

“It was great to notice positive attitudes among consumers towards bio-based products,” said John Vos, senior consultant and European projects manager at BTG Biomass Technology Group. “We hope that the results of this study will serve as basis for further exploration of this topic and will stimulate the market for bio-based products by addressing uncertainties around consumer demand in Ireland and the Netherlands.”

About BIOSWITCH

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BIOSWITCH is an initiative funded by the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme with a total budget of €1 million. The project is coordinated by the Finnish entity CLIC Innovation and formed by a multi-disciplinary consortium of eight partners from six different countries. The partners’ profiles include four industrial clusters: CLIC Innovation, Corporación Tecnológica de Andalucía, Flanders’ FOOD and Food & Bio Cluster Denmark; two Research and Technological Organizations: Munster Technological Institute and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland; and two SMEs: BTG Biomass Technology Group and Sustainable Innovations.

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Public hearing on link between biodiversity loss and pandemics such as COVID-19 

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The Parliament hearing on 'Facing the sixth mass extinction and increasing risk of pandemics: What role for the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030' will be held today (14 January).

Organized by the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the hearing will address the loss of biodiversity and the extent to which this increases the risk of pandemics due to change in land use, climate change and wildlife trade. The role that the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 could play in countering biodiversity loss and in increasing the EU’s and the global commitment to biodiversity will be discussed.

Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Executive Secretary Dr Anne  Larigauderie and European Environment Agency Executive Director Dr Hans Bruyninckx will open the public hearing.

The detailed programme is available here.

You can follow the hearing live here from 9h today.

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EU biodiversity strategy for 2030

On Thursday afternoon, Members will discuss the draft report by rapporteur César Luena (S&D, ES) which responds to the Commission's Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and welcomes the level of ambition in the strategy. The draft report underlines that all main direct drivers of change in nature must be addressed and expresses concern about soil degradation, the impact of climate change and the declining number of pollinators. It also addresses the issues of funding, mainstreaming and the governance framework for biodiversity, calls for a Green Erasmus programme focused on restoration and conservation, and emphasises the need for international action, including with regard to ocean governance.

You can follow the committee meeting live here from 13h15.

More information 

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