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NGOs call for UK to defend nature as EU saves its flagship legislation

Following an 18 month Defend Nature campaign run by environmental NGOs across Europe - and a public consultation with a record 550,000 respondents - European Commissioners today decided to save the EU’s flagship environment legislation; the Birds and Habitats Directives.

7 December 2016

NGOs are now calling on the UK Government to retain all aspects of these EU laws, and to improve how they are implemented so that UK wildlife habitats and species are protected effectively now and in the long term. As over 100,000 UK citizens responded to the public consultation, it is clear that people across the UK care a great deal about the environment and are prepared to fight for its future.

Revered worldwide, and perceived to be the foundation of nature conservation across Europe, the Directives are scientifically proven to be effective - where properly implemented - delivering demonstrable benefits for nature as well as significant social and economic benefits.

Chair of Environment Links UK Habitats and Birds group Kate Jennings (RSPB) said:

‘This is excellent news for the environment because the Directives – when properly implemented – provide a strong safeguard for Europe’s important wildlife and habitats. They are considered – worldwide – to be a leading example of environmental legislation, and the UK has relied upon these laws to protect some of our best loved and most iconic wildlife and landscapes for over 30 years.’

Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link Dr Elaine King said:

‘We celebrate with our European partners because retaining the Habitats and Birds Directives is great news for nature across Europe, but we also call on the UK Government to retain all aspects of these vital laws in order to safeguard our wildlife and habitats.’

End

Notes to editors:
Environment Links UK collectively represents voluntary organisations with more than 8 million supporters across the UK. It comprises membership of Wildlife and Countryside Link, Scottish Environment Link, Wales Environment Link and Northern Ireland Environment Link. Each is a collation of environmental voluntary organisations united by their common interest in the conservation and restoration of nature and the promotion of sustainable development across the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments.

The European Commission’s review of the Directives arose from President Jean-Claude Juncker’s instruction in 2014 to “carry out an in-depth evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives and assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation”, as part of the ‘better regulation’ initiative.

Over 100 UK NGOs came together in response, calling for the Directives to be saved and better implemented – not ‘modernised’ http://bit.ly/2haaBcL.

More than 550,000 citizens, of whom over 100,000 were from the UK, took part in the European Commission’s consultation on the Directives in 2015 – the largest response to any Commission consultation to date http://bit.ly/1i4b6Bo.

In December 2015, the Environment Council recognised the importance of full implementation of these “essential” laws to “maintain legal certainty for all stakeholders”. http://bit.ly/2g2pFnH.

In February 2016, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to oppose “a possible revision of the Nature Directives” http://bit.ly/1Sq0gFO.

In March 2016, a Commission external evaluation concluded that the Directives are ‘fit for purpose’ (released through an access to documents request) http://bit.ly/2gClHGG.

For more information please contact: Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth, sandra.bell@foe.co.uk, 07941 176957