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:
There is an increasing recognition of strong interconnections between natural and cultural assets and the need for their integrated management. In that context the value of biodiversity and ecosystems are highlighted in a "Scoping study on links between Natura 2000 and cultural sites + Annex" which has been carried out to explore the contribution of Natura 2000 to the conservation and restoration of cultural capital, identify main relevant initiatives at EU policy level and examine how the different policies might better support each other also as regards possible EU funding opportunities, and suggest possible follow up for the integration of the two assets.
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.
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 Commission prepared a new "Financing Natura 2000 Guidance Handbook" for the period 2014-2020. The document is designed to help EU Member States strengthen the uptake of EU funds for the management and conservation of their Natura 2000 sites in the new multiannual financial framework.
The Handbook analyses and describes opportunities for financing investments in Natura 2000 from different funds and instruments. It provides guidance on complementarities between different funds and policies which can be of benefit to the network. There are also practical tips on better integration of Natura 2000 in the operational programmes and some guidance on possible use of innovative financing instruments.
The Handbook has a two-part structure, with separate volumes for Part I and Part II:
DG Environment has commissioned an analysis of a sample of operational and rural development programmes for the financing period 2014–2020. The aim was to assess the extent to which relevant measures for Natura 2000 and biodiversity conservation have been integrated into these programmes and how the PAFs have been taken into account in this process. This is only the first glance at this subject and further analysis will have to be carried out to fully evaluate the level of integration of Natura 2000 and biodiversity into different EU funds.
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.