Effective management and restoration of sites in the Natura 2000 network requires significant investments. In 2004 the Commission provided a first cost estimate of 6.1 billion EUR per year for EU-25 Natura 2000 financing needs. An updated and more thorough assessment for EU-27, using common methodologies, broadly supports this earlier figure. Based on data received from 25 Member States it is estimated that a minimum of 5.8 billion EUR per year will be needed for EU-27 to manage and restore the sites in the network.
However, these costs are greatly outweighed by the benefits provided by the network. In addition to playing a crucial role in protecting Europe’s biodiversity, Natura 2000 sites provide a wide range of other ecosystem benefits and services to society. The economic value of these multiple benefits has been considered to be very significant, but until recently few studies have been undertaken to evaluate this in detail. DG Environment has commissioned three contracts to help identify, evaluate and subsequently demonstrate the economic benefits provided by Natura 2000.
The first of the three studies provides a methodological framework for assessing the overall economic value of the Natura 200 benefits and offers a first broad assessment of what that value could be. It puts the figure in the region of 200-300 billion EUR per year for the whole network.
The second study looks specifically at the economic value of benefits provided by tourism and recreation and employment in relation to Natura 2000, whilst the third study proposes a tool for estimating the total economic value of the changes to ecosystems services as a result of taking conservation measures in Natura 2000 sites.
Detailed final reports of the three study contracts
Specific case-studies have also been prepared on successful and innovative approaches to financing Natura 2000 needs.
Earlier studies for the Commission have also examined the benefits associated with individual Natura 2000 sites:
The tool is designed for wider use by land managers and has been verified on 5 case studies in different biogeographical conditions:
An initial review on the benefits brought by Natura 2000 as they are seen in the Member States has been elaborated Further information on both the costs and the benefits is available in the reports of the Commission's contractors:
The establishment of Natura 2000 is now at an advanced stage and the upcoming period will be critical to making the network fully operational through the effective management and restoration of the sites. While the main responsibility for financing Natura 2000 lies with the Member States, Article 8 of the Habitats Directive legally links delivery of necessary conservation measures to the provision of the EU co-financing. The Council of Ministers has invited the Commission, in collaboration with Member States, to assess whether the current integration approach, that provides for Natura 2000 funding under the different EU sectoral funds, has been adequate for the effective implementation of the network and to explore ways of enhancing the uptake of EU funds for Natura 2000 in the next financial perspective.
In response, The Commission issued a staff working paper in December 2011 that presents a summary of an evaluation of the effectiveness of the current approach to EU co-financing of Natura 2000 as well as an overview of relevant provisions in Commission proposals for the next multi-annual financial framework. This also provides an updated estimate of Natura 2000 costs and underlines the benefits to be gained from effective management of these areas. The paper also explains how the "prioritised action frameworks" required under the Habitats Directive can serve as strategic planning tools to help strengthen the integration of Natura 2000 financing into the use of relevant EU financial instruments for the next programming period.
In order to encourage better integration of funds and to promote more strategic planning of investments in Natura 2000, the Commission is assisting Member States in the development of their prioritised action frameworks (PAFs) under Article 8 of the Habitats Directive. PAFs will better define the funding needs and priorities for Natura 2000 at a national or regional level and so facilitate their integration into the forthcoming operational programmes for the different EU funding instruments. Member States have been asked to submit their PAFs to the Commission by the end of 2012.
For this purpose a common format has been agreed with the Member States within the framework of the Habitats Committee. A working document has also been prepared which gives examples on opportunities for financing Natura 2000, based on practical experiences form the existing EU funds.
On 16 May 2011 in Brussels, Commissioner Janez Potočnik held a high profile “Roundtable on Natura 2000”, with eminent managers of Natura 2000 sites from around the EU, This was an opportunity for the press and media to discuss the Natura 2000 network of protected sites and the financing mechanisms for it. Securing investments in Natura 2000 in difficult financial and budgetary times represents a significant challenge. The aim of this Roundtable was to share first hand practical experience with the press, and to discuss with them the future of financing Natura 2000.
A brochure on the issue was launched at this event (only available electronically):
In the context of reflections on the future financing of Natura 2000 the European Commission undertook an online public consultation, which ran from 26 November 2010 until17 February 2011, to gather the views of different stakeholders aimed to identify ways of enhancing the success of financing Natura 2000.
A major stakeholder conference on financing Natura 2000 took place in Brussels on 15 and 16 June 2010. This provided a valuable opportunity to share experiences with and draw lessons from the current integration model.
The current approach, set out in the 2004 Communication on financing Natura 2000 for the 2007-2013 financing period, is to integrate the financing of Natura 2000 into the funding streams of different EU policy sectors.
The Guidance Handbook presents the EU funding options for Natura 2000 sites in the period 2007-2013 that are, in principle, available at the national and regional level. In 2013 this handbook will be updated to provide guidance on possibilities of financing Natura 2000 for the programming period 2014-2020.
LIFE+ is the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU, as well as in some candidate, acceding and neighbouring countries. Through the many best practice and demonstration projects this fund continues to be of strategic importance for the financing of Natura 2000.