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«The Economic and Social Aspects of Biodiversity Benefits and Costs of Biodiversity in Ireland REPORT PREPARED BY: CRAIG BULLOCK, OPTIMIZE CONSULTANTS ...»

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The Habitats Directive is much broader in scope than the Birds Directive, extending the coverage to a much wider range of rare, threatened or endemic species, including around 450 animals and 500 plants throughout Europe. Its aim is to restore, or maintain, natural habitats and species of wild flora and fauna of “European Community interest” to a favourable conservation status. Some 200 rare and characteristic habitat types are also targeted for conservation in their own right. The Habitats Directive established the ‘Natura 2000’ network of sites of highest nature value. This consists of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated by Member States, and incorporates the SPAs designated under the Birds Directive. Over 20,000 sites have been included in the network so far (throughout the EU25), covering almost a fifth of Europe’s land and water (equivalent to the size of Spain and Italy put together). As part of Natura 2000, the selected areas benefit from increased protection. In principle, Member States must take all the necessary measures to guarantee their conservation and avoid their deterioration.

Under both the Birds and Habitats Directives, two pillars of legislation are identified – the first pillar dealing with protection of habitats (through which Natura 2000 sites are designated) and the second dealing with protection of species listed in the Annexes to the Directives (e.g. through protection of their habitats, nests, eggs and breeding places, and through the control of capture, killing, harvesting, hunting and trade). Under the legislation, the integrity and conservation status of Natura 2000 sites, and the system of protection for the listed species, must not be negatively impacted by development or other activity, except where there are “imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social and economic nature”.

In EU legislation, the concept of habitats and species of “Community interest” is largely based on conservation criteria – for example, sites which hold high proportions of national or international populations of a given bird or mammal, or which are important for the national or EU-wide conservation of an endangered species, etc. However, under current EU policy, in light of the findings of the MA and following the implementation of many recent EU environmental directives, the concept of Community interest potentially has a wider frame of reference than nature conservation concerns alone. For example, sites may have Community importance not only because of the component flora or fauna, but because of the importance or value of the ecosystem services which they provide. It is likely that future legislation on environmental protection may recognise the relevance of these sites to wider social and economic issues.

Considerations of impacts on biodiversity arising from plans and programmes, including physical development and policy goals, are regulated by two other important EU Directives which should be mentioned here – the Directive on the assessment of impact of certain private and public projects on the environment (the Environmental Impact Assessment, or EIA, Directive) and the Directive on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (the Strategic Environmental Assessment, or SEA, Directive).

The EIA Directive applies to impact assessment of certain projects involving physical development, consumption of raw materials and production of wastes, or land use change.This includes, for example, construction, manufacturing, exploration, energy generation and waste management projects. EIA is an important tool for ensuring that the end results of a project have minimal negative impacts on the environment, including biodiversity, or that such impacts can at least be identified, and where possible remedied or remediated.

The EIA Directive is focused on individual projects. Experience throughout the EU has shown that the wider policy framework itself represents a significant barrier to sustainable development, by tacitly allowing specific types of projects in potentially unsuitable circumstances or locations. EIA, when implemented with the Habitats and Birds Directives, should ensure that many impacts on biodiversity are prevented and that development is sustainable. However, the problems associated with subtle, unforeseen, long term, cumulative or additive impacts are often not adequately accounted for by EIA, due to uncertainty, lack of scientific knowledge, or gaps in other relevant policy structures. The implementation of the SEA Directive aims to overcome these issues, by ensuring that certain programmes and plans – including Regional Development Plans, infrastructure programmes and certain other supporting policies – are appropriately assessed for their potential environmental impacts, prior to their implementation.This is a potentially significant development towards the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity throughout the EU, and has implications for the decision making process across all sectors of government.

Some other EU legal instruments are relevant to the aims of conservation and sustainable use of

biodiversity:

• The E n v i ro n m e n t a l L i ab i l i t y Directive, which implements the "polluter pays" principle and covers damage to natural habitats protected under the 1992 Habitats and 1979 Bird Directives.





• The W a t e r F ra m ew o rk D i re c t i ve, which has established an EU framework for the protection of all water bodies in the EU in order to prevent and reduce pollution, promote sustainable water use, protect the aquatic environment, improve the status of aquatic ecosystems and mitigate the effects of floods and droughts.

• The A ar h u s C o n ve n t i o n, which provides for access to environmental information and public participation and access to justice in environmental matters.

• The seven environmental t h e m a t i c s t ra t e g i e s adopted by the European Commission, on the marine environment, soil, the sustainable use of pesticides, air pollution, the urban environment, the sustainable use and management of natural resources, and waste prevention and recycling.They take a long-term (20-25 years) holistic and ecosystem-based approach to these issues, which cut across several policy areas.

2.2.2 D e ve lo p m e n t o f t h e E U ’s policy fra m ew o rk f o r b i o d i ve rs i t y The EC Biodiversity Conservation Strategy (ECBS), adopted in 1998, was developed to meet the EC’s obligations as a Party to the CBD.The ECBS provides a comprehensive response to the many requirements of the CBD, and aims to anticipate, prevent and tackle the causes of significant reduction or loss of biodiversity at the source.This will help both to reverse present trends in biodiversity reduction or losses and to place species and ecosystems, including agro-ecosystems, at a satisfactory conservation status.

At the Gothenburg Summit in 2001, EU countries recognised that biodiversity loss is continuing at alarming rates with potentially severe consequences for livelihood security and sustainable economic growth throughout the EU and worldwide.The first EU Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) was adopted at Gothenburg, and special attention was given to the issue of biodiversity conservation. In recognition of the importance of biodiversity to human well-being and economic development throughout the EU, Member States agreed to work towards halting biodiversity loss, (rather than merely to “reduce the rate of loss” as stated in the CBD strategy) by the year 2010 – a significant and ambitious aim which requires intense collaboration within and across all sectors of government and civil society. In order to implement this aim, four Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) have been adopted at EU level, outlining in detail what actions are required, and highlighting the need for a cross-sectoral approach.The four areas targeted are agriculture, fisheries, economic and development cooperation, and conservation of natural resources.

During the Irish Presidency of the EU in 2004, the Irish Government convened an international conference in Malahide, Co. Dublin, entitled “Biodiversity and the EU: Sustaining Life, Sustaining Livelihoods”.This Conference was the key event in a critical policy review process, which was widely endorsed by Member States and civil society organisations. Discussions focussed on EU action towards meeting the 2010 target, and the Conference prepared a 'Message from Malahide' detailing priority objectives, targets, indicators of success and implementation arrangements.

Following these developments, biodiversity objectives have been further integrated in a wide range of other sectoral policies. This includes the L i s b o n p art n e rs h i p f o r grow t h an d j o b s, reinforcing the message that biodiversity must be considered in economic and social development policies made by central government or at decentralised level. Recent reform of the C o m m o n A gri c u l t u ra l Po l i c y (CAP) aims to help mitigate the damaging trends of intensification and the abandonment of high-nature-value farmland and forests. Considerable progress has also been made in integrating biodiversity concerns in the C o m m o n F i s h e ri e s Po l i c y (CFP), which was reformed in 2002.The previous short-term (annual) decision-making approach of the CFP is replaced by multi-annual recovery plans for those fish stocks that are in danger of collapsing and multi-annual management plans for healthy stocks.The new CFP aims to adjust the size of the EU’s fishing fleet according to fish stocks and to promote environment-friendly fishing methods.

In 2006, in response to the Message from Malahide and the results of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the European Commission produced a Communication on "Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 – and beyond; sustaining ecosystem services for human well-being".The Communication reviews progress in implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans and proposes an Action Plan to 2010 and beyond. For the first time, this Action Plan addresses both the EU institutions and Member States, specifying the roles of both levels of governance in relation to each action. It provides a comprehensive plan of priority actions towards specific, time-bound targets, requiring enhanced consideration of biodiversity in planning and development activities across all sectors.

2.3 T H E I R I S H CON T E X T

2.3.1 Legislation A number of Legislative Instruments with relevance to biodiversity have been implemented in Ireland. As most of these have roots in the corresponding EU Directives as discussed above, very little additional detail is required here, except to note that some Irish legislation goes further than the requirements of EU law, or provides structures which allow for the greater integration of environmental concerns into non-environment policy areas. Three aspects of note are: the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended by 2000 Act)”, which provides for the designation and protection of Natural Heritage Areas to protect habitats and species of national significance; the EPA Act (as amended by the Protection of the Environment Act, 2003), which allows for independent assessment and licensing of certain industrial activities which may impact on the environment; and the various Planning and Development regulations, which require appropriate assessments of potential impacts on biodiversity and the wider environment, arising from various development and economic activities.

2.3.2 T h e N a t i o n a l B i o d i ve rs i t y P l an As discussed above, each party to the CBD, including Ireland, has agreed to prepare a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan to implement the CBD within their own national boundaries.

The Irish National Biodiversity Plan (NBP) was published by the Government in 2002, with a midterm review published by the Minister for the Environment Mr Dick Roche T.D. in November 2005.

A revised NBP is planned for the period 2008 - 2011.

The plan pays special attention to the need for the integration of the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into all relevant sectors: “The full and effective integration of biodiversity concerns into the development and implementation of other policies, legislation, and programmes is of crucial importance if the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is to be achieved.” Amongst other actions, the NBP requires specific actions in the key areas of agriculture, forestry, wetlands and inland waters, and marine and coastal areas, and also calls for the development of “sectoral biodiversity action plans” to ensure that the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity is actively pursued by each government department and agency. A set of guidelines on production of these plans has been published by the NPWS, and an Interdepartmental Biodiversity Steering Group comprising representatives from all Government Departments has been put in place.

2.3.3 T h e N a t i o n a l D e ve lo p m e n t P l an an d t h e N a t i o n a l S p a t i a l S t ra t e gy Ireland’s first National Development Plan and Community Support Framework (2000 – 2006) set the national agenda for social and economic growth and regional development, based on four key

objectives:

• to continue sustainable national economic and employment growth

• to strengthen and improve Ireland’s international competitiveness

• to foster balanced Regional Development

• to promote Social Inclusion.

The Irish Government and the European Commission identified four priority considerations to be factored into the NDP: poverty, equal opportunities, the environment, and rural development.These cross-cutting or horizontal principles supported all Programmes in the Plan, which oversaw significant investment in social improvements, infrastructure developments and scientific and technological research.



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