On 21 May, the European Commission launched the 2022 edition of the European Natura 2000 Award in celebration of the award. The Award, now in its sixth edition, honours and gives recognition to leading nature conservation achievements connected to Europe’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas. The Natura 2000 Award helps to raise awareness about Natura 2000, the work carried out by different organisations and individuals to safeguard these vital natural assets, and the health, cultural, societal and economic benefits the network provides to us all.
Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said "With 65% of the EU population living within 5 km of a Natura 2000 site, this vast network of areas of high biodiversity value literally brings nature to our doorstep, allowing people to enjoy its multiple benefits. I would like to honour all those individuals and organisations who are making this happen and invite them to respond to our new Natura 2000 Award call and get the recognition they deserve."
The Award is open to any organisation or person involved in Natura 2000, including public and local authorities, businesses, NGOs, landowners, educational institutions and individuals. The application period runs from 21 May to September 2021.
This year’s Natura 2000 Day pays tribute to the proximity of Natura 2000 sites to citizens across Europe, and the benefits this network brings to them and the planet, including its contribution to health. Nature has an important restorative and stress-reducing effect, letting us reconnect with ourselves and with others. Even taking a short walk or a break from work in a nature area can have positive effects on our mental and physical well-being.
Protected areas are also becoming part of the global momentum for nature in this crucial year for biodiversity. The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP 15), taking place in Kunming, China in October 2021, is expected to deliver a crucial global agreement for life on earth: a new Global Biodiversity Framework, an agreement as essential as the 2015 Paris Agreement addressing the climate crisis.
Ahead of the CoP 15, the European Commission has launched the Global Coalition “United for Biodiversity”, which calls on all world museums, zoos, aquariums, research centres, universities, national parks and botanical gardens to join forces in raising awareness about the nature crisis. On this Natura 2000 Day, the invitation is extended to all protected areas, with a very special call to the 27.000 Natura 2000 areas across the European Union.
Areas protected under Natura 2000 are not only natural landmarks but also European heritage that need to be preserved for future generations. They consitute the areas of biodiversity on the continent, which are endangered by industrialisation, population growth, and climate crisis. Therefore, giving awards in order to raise awareness about Natura 2000 and the importance of the preservation of nature are necessary and positive steps in fighting climate change. In line with the European Green Deal and bringing the European public on board with its implementation, ECOPNET (European Cooperation and Partnership Network) believes that such events need to increase in number and possibly provide tangible incentives for local or national communities.
The pan-European Natura 2000 Award 2022 award recognises excellence in the management of Natura 2000 sites and conservation achievements, showcasing the added value of the network for local economies, and increasing public awareness about Europe's valuable natural heritage. The award recognises good practices at Natura 2000 sites in five different categories: Conservation on land, Marine conservation, Communication, Socio-economic benefits, and Cross-border cooperation. The Citizens’ Award, the sixth award, rewards the public’s favourite finalist.
Applications are assessed by a team of independent experts selecting the finalists that will be invited to a high-level ceremony at which the winners are announced. The Natura 2000 Award winners receive a trophy and support to organise high-profile local events attended by representatives of the European Commission.
Over the previous five editions, the Natura 2000 Award has received over 500 applications, and has celebrated 121 finalists and 29 winners. The finalists and winners gain from the EU-wide attention on their activities. For example, in 2020, the winner of the European Citizens’ Award managed to gather well over 11 000 votes to support their “Partnership for protection of Bulgarian old-growth forests in Natura 2000”. Saving old growth forest is one of the key objectives set out by the European Commission in the new EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 and the prize underlines the significance that EU citizens attach to this challenge.
For further information about the EU Natura 2000 Award and how to apply visit the Award website.
About Natura 2000
Natura 2000 is the European Union network of protected areas. It consists of an enormous variety of different sites across the continent, aiming to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitat types, safeguarding them for future generations. It also provides a wide range of products and services beneficial to society and the economy.
The Natura 2000 network is founded on two pioneering pieces of EU legislation – the 1979 Birds Directive and the 1992 Habitats Directive – and plays an essential role in halting biodiversity loss in the EU. Today, the network consists of almost 27 000 terrestrial and marine sites, covering more than 18 % of Europe’s land and about 9 % of the surrounding seas, across nine biogeographic regions.
Although the network also includes strictly protected nature reserves, Natura 2000 embraces a much wider concept of conservation and compatible use, which largely centres on people working with nature. Since every site is unique, the emphasis is on finding local solutions to local management issues in close cooperation with landowners, stakeholders, local authorities and any other interested parties.
About the Global Coalition “United for Biodiversity”
The Global Coalition “United for Biodiversity“ was announced by EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, at the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco on World Wildlife Day, 3 March 2020. Since then, 40 organisations and 253 institutions from 49 countries have already joined and given their support to the Coalition pledge calling on all - from citizens to municipalities, business to governments - to act for nature.
Following the CBD CoP 15, the focus of the Coalition will be on coordinated actions with tangible impact aimed at bending the curve of biodiversity loss. In addition to the new Global Biodiversity Framework, the Coalition will also support the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, to be launched on World Environment Day (5 June 2021)
Source: European Commission Directorate-General for Environment Newsroom