It's with a great deal of pleasure, no little pride and some relief that I share this blog with you. Written by Alistair Taylor our Senior Policy Officer who has been at the heart of our vital Defend Nature campaign to safeguard the laws that protect nature across the European Union.

Martin Harper reported on Monday that a decision would be taken today on the future of the Nature Directives, the laws that have set the foundations of wildlife protection across the EU for more than 35 years. It’s thanks to these laws that some of our most special landscapes, from the Cairngorms to the New Forest, are protected, and species like the bittern have been brought back from the brink of extinction in the UK.

I’m delighted to be able to report that earlier today the 28 members of the European Commission, including the UK’s Julian King, Commissioner for Security Union, endorsed the findings of the Fitness Check, that the Directives are fit for purpose and should not be revised or weakened. We’ve won this fight to defend the laws that protect our nature.

This decision comes at the end of a mammoth three year process that brought together a pan-European coalition of civil society organisations and over half a million citizens in defence of these crucial nature protection laws. You can get a flavour of the whole campaign from our infographic here.

To the many people who gave their support we here at the RSPB say a heartfelt thank you.

What’s next for UK nature?

This decision is a significant milestone, but our work to conserve nature must continue with renewed vigour. All this week the world’s leaders are meeting in Cancun, Mexico, to agree actions to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity. Our natural world is still in trouble, but action is being taken under the Convention to try to make a difference. As Martin Harper outlined here, there remains a gap between political ambition and the measures available to restore nature.

The Birds and Habitats Directives have been the cornerstones of European action to tackle the loss of biodiversity, and have been relied on in the UK as the means to meet both national and international commitments to biodiversity (both of which will remain regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations). Whatever the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the legal framework created under these laws in the UK will therefore continue to be important for the wildlife and habitats we share with our European neighbours, and it will be vital  that legal protection for wildlife builds on that provided by these crucial laws.

We’ll of course be doing our utmost to make sure they do, and if you want to help our continued campaigning for nature, please sign up as a campaign champion to stay informed about all of our campaigns.

There’s work still to do

The Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives has sent ripples through Europe, and continues to do so. Working with our partners across Europe, we broke the record for the number of citizens responding to an EU public consultation, with over 520,000 people pledging their support for nature laws through the #DefendNature campaign, over 100,000 of which were from the UK.

The final report by the Consultants who carried out the Fitness Check was published in September this year in response to a Freedom of Information request, and is available here. This 660 page report, based on evidence from RSPB and NGOs across Europe, along with our industry partners, not only confirmed that the Directives are fit for purpose, but also made recommendations for how to better implement them.

The Commission has also agreed to come up with a plan for better implementation of these two crucial laws, something that is going to be vital if the loss of biodiversity is to be not just halted but reversed. We’ll continue to work closely with the BirdLife partnership across Europe, to make sure that this plan does what it needs to and allows the Nature Directives to protect our shared wildlife even more effectively.

As the UK proceeds with its negotiations to leave the EU, our swallows, nightingales and other migratory wildlife will still continue to their annual migrations across our political borders each year. They need strong protection everywhere they travel, and we’ll keep working to uphold and improve it.

  • The key thing that the EU needs to do is to prohibit derogation from the directives. It is through this scam that the Maltese hunts continue; it underpins the General Licence rules in the UK that allow farmers, gamekeepers and landowners to kill certain predatory wild birds and mammals with impunity.