European policies

© Filip Hrebenda, REDISCOVER Nature/EEA

  • The EU Birds and Habitats Directives or Nature Directives form the legislative cornerstone of European nature protection, thereby establishing an extensive network of special protection areas call the Natura 2000 Network
  • The Natura 2000 Network covers a total surface area of over 1 million km2 of European terrestrial and marine habitats, 18% of the total EU terrestrial and 10% of marine areas.

The European Green Deal was presented in late 2019 and aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The Green Deal recognises biodiversity as a key area to contribute to climate neutrality and to eliminate disease outbreaks. This is underlined by the Deal’s ambition for all EU policies to contribute to the preservation and restoration of Europe’s natural capital. The new EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 (see below) and ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system will be central in this regard. These and many other promising initiatives as part of the Green Deal have the potential to turn the biodiversity crisis in Europe around. In order to achieve the desired impacts and be effective, however, clear objectives, measures, commitment, enforcement mechanisms, adequate financing and monitoring.

What is the key objective of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030?

Despite significant efforts by the EU Member States, biodiversity and the delivery of ecosystem services continue to decline. Recent data show that only 15 % of habitat and 27% of species assessments at EU level have a good conservation status, while the majority continues to have poor or bad status. This is largely due to habitat loss and fragmentation, pressures from land use change, diffuse pollution, the over-exploitation of resources, and growing impacts of invasive alien species and climate change contribute (State of nature report 2020).

In an effort to curb these worrying trends, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 aims to ensure that ecosystems are healthy, resilient to climate change, rich in biodiversity and deliver the range of services essential to the prosperity and well-being of its citizens. The Strategy sets ambitious 2030 action-oriented targets linked to protected areas, ecosystem restoration, habitat and species status, urban green spaces, biodiversity to benefit the climate and people, and a new a new biodiversity governance framework enabling transformative change. The Strategy further outlines the ambition to strengthen the biodiversity proofing framework for EU programmes and financing instruments and aims to unlock at least €20 billion a year for spending on nature.

Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity (KCBD), the EU Biodiversity Strategy technical policy support

The setting up of the European Commission Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity (KCBD was announced in in May 2020 with the launch of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, and launched at EU Biodiversity Greenweek in October 2020, as one of the first implemented actions of the Strategy.
The KCBD initial priorities focus on:

  • Track and assess progress by the EU and its partners
  • Foster cooperation and partnership
  • Underpin policy development with ad hoc scientific, technical and practitioners’ advice

KCBD work streams:

KCBD online tracking tools:

How are Europe’s species and habitats protected?

The European Commission’s EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 sets out to give nature back more than human-induced pressures take. The strategy proposes a path towards the recovery of biodiversity. It has been determined by the strategy, that recovery is strongest in protected areas. In accordance, key commitments of the strategy are linked to the expansion and enhancement of Europe’s web of protected areas, the Natura 2000 network.

Key targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030

1 Legally protect a minimum of 30% of the EU’s land area and 30% of the EU’s sea area and integrate ecological corridors, as part of a true Trans-European Nature Network.

2 Strictly protects at least 30% of the EU’s protected areas, including all primary and old-growth forests.

3 Effectively manage all protected areas, defininig clear conservations objectives and measures, and monitoring them appropiately.

The achievement of these ambitions relies on the enforcement of the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive, together commonly referred to as “Nature Directives”. First established over forty years ago, the Nature Directives form the legislative cornerstone of the European nature protection. They provide the framework for the establishment of an extensive network of special protection areas, the Natura 2000 network, which includes almost 28,000 sites with a total surface of over 1,3 million km2 of European terrestrial and marine habitats (Natura 2000 Barometer). This network of protected areas is one of the key instruments to protecting biodiversity in Europe. To gain an overview over all Natura 2000 sites, visit the interactive Natura 2000 Network Viewer.

How is progress towards nature protection goals assessed?

In order to assess the progress being made towards biodiversity conservation targets, the EU Birds and Habitats Directives (known collectively as the Nature Directives) require Member States to report every six years on the status of species and habitats in their territory. This includes information on population size, trends and distribution of species, along with information on the main pressures and threats and conservation measures in place to address these. The results of the EU wide assessments are then published in a ‘State of nature in the EU’ report (EEA, 2020). In addition to measuring progress being made in the Member States, a review of the Directives themselves was also undertaken in 2014 (a so-called ‘Fitness Check’) to assess their effectiveness. While the Directives were found to be ‘fit for purpose’, the assessment highlighted that their implementation needs to be improved and be more comprehensive. The European Commission reacted with the adoption of the EU Action Plan for nature, people and economy, which contains 15 actions aiming to improve the implementation and impact of the Nature Directives

How is biodiversity conservation supported by other EU policies?

Efforts to protect biodiversity are not limited to the EU Nature Directives and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Instead, a complex legislative framework of directives, policies, communications and programmes each serve to address key overarching pressures on the environment. Examples include the Common Agricultural Policy, EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species  and EU Green Infrastructure Strategy. As new evidence emerges on additional threats to biodiversity and the environment, additional legislation is develop, as was the case for the recent Directive on reduction of the impact of certain plastic products in the environment.

Policy support

EU Pollinators Initiative to address the decline of pollinators in the EU

EU Wild life trade Regulations to enforce CITES Convention on EU level

Zoos Directive to strengthen the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity

EU Water Framework Directive addresses integrated river basin management for Europe

EU Forest Strategy promotes sustainable forest management to safeguard multiple functions of forest

EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive for the protection of the marine environment across Europe

Technical support

MAES – Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services with the MAES digital atlas for spatial mapping

Copernicus – European Earth Observation Programme for information services based on satellite Earth Observation and in situ data

Biodiversity Data Centre (BDC) provides access to data and information on species, habitat types and sites of interest in Europe

European Nature Information System (EUNIS) is an advanced cross-search tool, linking species, habitat types and sites

Biodiversity Information System for Europe (BISE) is entry point for data and information on biodiversity

Financial support

LIFE programme – EU funding instrument for the environment and climate action

European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) to invest in job creation and a sustainable and healthy European economy and environment

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund(EMFF) to invest in the maritime economy and support fishing communities

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020)

Mid-term review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020

The 2015 mid-term review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 consisted of a Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on "The Mid-Term Review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020" and the more detailed Commission Staff Working Document "EU assessment of progress in implementing the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020". Contributions from the Member States to the 2015 mid-term review, based on their 5th national reports to the Convention on Biological Diversity, are compiled in a separate document. For a summary of progress towards the 2020 biodiversity targets, see the leaflet.

For a visual presentation of the results of the mid-term review, please click here.

Former strategy

In May 2006, the European Commission adopted a communication on