Tough times ahead for Europe's wildlife

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Martin Harper's blog

I’ve been the RSPB’s Conservation Director since May 2011. As I settle into the job, I’ll be blogging on all the big conservation topics and providing an inside view of our conservation projects. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel inspired to join in t

Tough times ahead for Europe's wildlife

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I have mixed feelings about the EU Budget announcement. 

I feel frustrated that once again the European Commission has failed to come up with a budget to tackle the environmental challenges we face.  Yet, I feel relieved that our worst fears about cuts to funding for wildlife-friendly farming have been largely allayed.  And, I also feel proud about the way that the RSPB, working closely through BirdLife International, our supporters (over 8,000 of them) and many farmers spoke up for nature 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.

I am not convinced that the funding and proposed reforms will be sufficient for the EU (or indeed the UK for that matter) to fulfil its many environmental commitments to reversing wildlife declines or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

While it is notoriously difficult to interpret the Budget figures, our economists have managed to draw out the following headlines:

  • The total EU Budget will increase by 5.5% in real terms (adjusted for inflation)
  • There has been a cut to the CAP budget of about 8.2%.  
  • The Rural Development fund (which includes the money to support wildlife-friendly farming) is cut by 7% in real terms.
  • 30 per cent of the CAP income subsidies will be attached to (unspecified) “greening” commitments
  • There will be re-orientation of the fisheries fund towards support for sustainable fisheries and conservation of the marine environment
  • There is environmental and climate proofing of cohesion policy investments
  • LIFE+ (the only pot dedicated exclusively to nature conservation projects) 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.

You can read the Commission's proposals here.  I will direct you to the RSPB analysis as soon as it is on our website.

But this is just the beginning of a long process.

The Council of Ministers now get their say.  And once the Council and the Commission reach agreement, the EU Parliament still needs to give it the nod.  The key completion date is the end of 2013 when the current budget term expires.

So it is clear that we will have to roll up our sleeves and step up again for nature by lobbying governments and MEPs to honour Europe’s environmental commitments.  We'll keep campaigning to defend what we have, to seek improvement and ultimately to deliver a brighter future for Euorpe's wildlife. 

Comments
  • Martin, The UK Government and others will undoubtedly seek to reduce this budget as they will not want a 5% increase.  If they do then there is a danger that the CAP budget gets reduced again. I don't understand the greening commitment because the use of that word makes it as likely to be for solar power and even biofuels rather than habitat.

    My big concern, to quote you above,  is 'we will have to roll up our sleeves and step up again for nature by lobbying governments and MEPs to honour Europe’s environmental commitments'.  For the environment to be protected it does seem we have to win every time.  For environment to be lost we only have to lose once.

  • Brilliant work by the RSPB and Birdlife Partners in preventing, through over 8000 campaign e-mails to Mr Barroso, the much larger reductions in the Rural Development Fund that seemed likely just over a week ago. I am not sure quite what some of the other headlines mean. For example, "(unspecified) greening committments", and "proofing of cohesion policy investments". No doubt this will become clearer in the next few months. However, as you say Martin, a lot of lobbying will be needed in the coming year to ensure as much as possible of these, presently rarther ill defined but substantial monies, are directed towards reversing biodiversity loss and slowing climate change. As you say a lot of campaining will be needed. I am sure the 8000+ sopprters and more, including myself, stand ready to do whatever campaining is necessary.