This conference hosted by the European Commission represents a key milestone in the path towards a new Financing Natura 2000 Communication. It provided a forum for an official presentation of the outcomes of the recent Economic and Social Benefits of Natura 2000 exercise. It also offered an opportunity to assess the current approach of financing Natura 2000, with respect to the European financing instruments. Its goal was to enable the Commission to identify future challenges and to develop new responses.
Specifically the conference aimed to:
- demonstrate the importance of investment in the network with respect to the benefits;
- develop a range of recommendations for financing the Natura 2000 network; and
- explain the current level and destination of expenditure on Natura 2000.
The two-day conference offered a stimulating mix of plenary and working sessions with many opportunities for gathering insights and exchanging experiences on the issues related to costs and benefits arising from Natura 2000 and financing Natura 2000.
It brought together more than 100 policy-makers, European Commission officials, NGOs and stakeholder groups from all across Europe to participate.
Biodiversity and ecosystems, including those within the Natura 2000 network, are becoming increasingly recognised for their provision of services crucial for human well-being. However, these benefits are still not taken into consideration in decision-making regarding natural areas. As the costs of Natura 2000 shift to appropriate management of sites, there is a need to guarantee adequate funding to ensure benefits are in fact provided by the Natura 2000 network. A better understanding of the benefits provided by the sites can facilitate decision-makers in the allocation of funds, and provide a strong basis for the investment in the Natura 2000 network.
In response to these issues, the European Commission commissioned the study on The Economic and Social Benefits Associated with the Natura 2000 Network. The project aims to support the European Commission in obtaining an accurate estimate on the costs of managing the EU Natura 2000 network; increase awareness of the socio-economic benefits associated with the network; and develop a methodology for the systematic updating and refinement of the costs and benefits linked to Natura 2000.
The Commission is currently working towards a new Communication on Financing Natura 2000, foreseen for the first half of 2011. This will update the estimated costs and benefits of Natura 2000 and evaluate the effectiveness of the current 'integration approach' set out in the earlier 2004 Communication on this subject.