Policy instruments related to green infrastructure

The EU Green Infrastructure Strategy is Europe’s main policy instrument for green infrastructure, aiming “to promote the deployment of green infrastructure in the EU in urban and rural areas''. Adopted in 2013, the Strategy guides the implementation of GI at the EU, regional, national and local levels and promotes investments in and advances in knowledge surrounding green infrastructure. The Strategy emerged in fulfillment of Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, which set priorities to restore and promote the use of green infrastructure and committed the Commission to developing such a GI-focused Strategy. The aim is to restore the health of ecosystems, ensure that natural areas remain connected, and allow species to thrive across their entire natural habitat to ensure the further delivery of a range of ecosystem services and benefits for society, the environment and biodiversity, and the economy (see here for further detail).

Green Infrastructure is a strategically planned network of natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services. It incorporates green spaces (or blue if aquatic ecosystems are concerned) and other physical features in terrestrial (including coastal) and marine areas. On land, GI is present in rural and urban settings.
(Definition of green infrastructure by the European Commission)

A main feature of the Green Infrastructure Strategy is its aim to mainstream green infrastructure into other relevant policies areas, such as Common Agriculture Policy, Water Framework Directive, Floods Directive, Adaptation Strategy, Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystem Services (MAES) initiative, and urban planning policies. This is often done by utilising similar concepts able to deliver sector-specific objectives e.g. ecosystem-based adaptation into climate change policies; nature-based solutions into research and innovation policies; natural water retention measures into water policies; and the delivery of multiple ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation into nature policies.

An overview of other key policies with regard to green infrastructure are as follows:

Policy

Relevance

Seventh Environment Action Programme (7 EAP)

The EAP contains measures to enhance ecological and climate resilience, such as ecosystem restoration and GI, can have important socioeconomic benefits, including for public health

2013 European Commission Strategy on Green Infrastructure (COM/2013/0249)

GI can make a significant contribution to the effective implementation of all policies where some or all of the desired objectives can be achieved through nature-based solutions

Regional Policy 2014-2020

The Regional Policy supports nature and GI through financial instruments such as the European Regional Development Funk and the Cohesion Fund, which contribute to several policy objectives and deliver multiple benefits, in particular socio-economic development

Birds and Habitats Directives (COM/92/43/EEC and COM/79/409/EEC)

Both directives include various connectivity conservation measures for protected areas and the wider environment. Connectivity measures are required to maintain or restore the coherence of the Natura 2000 network. In particular, paragraph 3 of Article 3 of the HD states that ´where they consider it necessary, MS shall endeavour to improve the ecological coherence of Natura 2000by maintaining, and where appropriate developing, features of the landscape´

Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) and the Floods Directive (COM(2006)15)

All directives offer GI-related opportunities (for instance, by supporting actions to put in place GI improve soil retention, act as buffer strips between agricultural production and water sources, and provide water storage during flood events)

EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change (EC, 2013b)

The strategy aims to make Europe more climate resilient by ensuring the full mobilisation of GI-or ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation

LIFE 2014-2020 Regulation (EC) No 1293/2013

Amongst other aims, the LIFE Programme dedicates significant financial resources to strengthen the ability of ecosystems, to provide multiple crucial ecosystem services and increasing effectiveness and uptake of GI

Thematic strategy on the urban environment (EC, 2005)

The strategy underlines the importance of the development of GI in urban environment

EU Urban Agenda

The Urban Agenda for the EU is an integrated and coordinated approach to deal with the urban dimension of EU and national policies and legislation. GI and nature-based solutions are part of this agenda

The Natura 2000 network is the backbone of Europe’s green infrastructure. However, although the network already encompasses a large number of protected areas, sufficient spatial and functional connectivity between these areas and the wider European landscape was found to often be lacking. The GI Strategy was thus envisioned to play an important role in protecting these existing biodiversity-rich ecosystems and restoring the conservation status of degraded ecosystems while increasing the level of connectivity both within but outside of the network to support species movement and population viability. In doing so, green infrastructure safeguards crucial ecosystems and their services and supports the successful implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.