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Wildlife forgotten in the next EU Budget

Last modified: 30 June 2011

Stone-curlew calling from nest

Thanks to farmers, receiving wildlife-friendly farming funding, the stone-curlew has increased its UK population.

The European Commission has squandered a key chance to save Europe’s countryside and wildlife. That’s the reaction from the RSPB and its European partners following the European Commission’s latest Budget statement which proposes the EU’s financial commitments after 2013.

Last week the RSPB was warning of significant cuts to wildlife-friendly farming within yesterday’s budget. The budget figures reveal a cut of around five per cent in funding for wildlife-friendly farming. However, this is against the backdrop of an overall increase in the EU budget by five per cent, so the overall money spent on wildlife-friendly farming has dropped significantly as a proportion of the overall budget.

Lacking vision

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Conservation Director. Commenting on the Budget, he said: “Last-minute campaigning efforts by us and our supporters have averted the toppling of funding for the environment. However, it’s clear this budget still lacks vision and doesn’t provide the foundation necessary for improving Europe’s environment.

“It is great news that plans to radically cut the funding for landowners for environmental benefits have been pushed off the table. But the Commission’s hopes of tackling climate change, wildlife loss and environmental degradation won’t be realised with such a timid budget. This budget does not reflect a progressive Europe which cares about its environmental commitments.

“Now we need to fight even harder to ensure the best deal for Europe’s wildlife and the environment from this disappointing budget by getting it on the best track possible.”

Over 8000 RSPB supporters, including hundreds of farmers, have emailed Jose Manual Barroso (The European Commission President) directly, urging him not to axe environmental payments to landowners in this budget. This pressure proved vital in the negotiations yesterday when significant cuts were still on the table.

Stepping up

Martin Harper added: “We are grateful to our supporters who stepped up to the challenge by contacting Mr Barroso directly. Their support has helped retain most of the existing pot of cash for activities which can improve the environment. But we were looking for so much more. Now, we and our supporters will have to step up again for nature by lobbying governments and MEPs to honour Europe’s environmental commitments.

“These proposals will come as a great disappointment to the many farmers in the UK who are queuing up to put wildlife-friendly measures on their land through environmental stewardship schemes. The ball is now in the UK Government’s court to fight for an increase in funding for these schemes. Only then will they be able to achieve their target of halting biodiversity loss over the next decade.”

In 2010, the European Commission agreed to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020. It has also agreed to achieve sustainable agriculture by 2020 under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Budget proposal does include important positive elements:

-           30 per cent of the CAP income subsidies being attached to (unspecified) “greening” commitments

-           Re-orientation of the fisheries fund towards support for sustainable fisheries and conservation of the marine environment

-           Environmental and climate proofing of cohesion policy investments

-           LIFE+ has increased from €2.18bn to €3.2bn: a significant rise (although in real terms less than 30 percent), which still falls far short of what RSPB and BirdLife International had called for.

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