Background

EU Green Infrastructure Strategy

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The European Commission released a Communication (Green Infrastructure (GI) - Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital - COM(2013) 249 final). 

This is a new strategy for encouraging the use of green infrastructure, and for ensuring that the enhancement of natural processes becomes a systematic part of spatial planning. Green Infrastructure is a tool that uses nature to provide ecological, economic and social benefits.

The Communication sets out the policy background for strategy and includes a short description of what Green Infrastructure is. The central section of the document describes how Green Infrastructure can contribute to a number of key policy areas in particular regional development, climate change, disaster prevention and resilience, agriculture, forestry and environmental protection. The final sections of the document identify what needs to be done to promote the deployment of Green Infrastructure and how this will be achieved:

  • Promoting green infrastructure in the main policy areas such as agriculture, forestry, nature, water, marine and fisheries, regional and cohesion policy, climate change mitigation and adaptation, transport, energy, disaster prevention and land use policies. By the end of 2013, the Commission will develop guidance to show how green infrastructure can be integrated into the implementation of these policies from 2014 to 2020.
  • Improving research and data, strengthening the knowledge base and promoting innovative technologies that support green infrastructure.
  • Improving access to finance for green infrastructure projects – the Commission will set up an EU financing facility by 2014 together with the European Investment Bank to support green infrastructure projects.
  • Supporting EU-level GI projects – by the end of 2015, the Commission will carry out a study to assess the opportunities for developing an EU-wide network of green infrastructure.

The GI communication will contribute to the establishment of an enabling framework at the level of the EU that will encourage the decision makers, planners and promoters to invest in GI projects at local, regional and national level.

By the end of 2017, the Commission will review progress on developing Green Infrastructure and publish a report on the lessons learnt together with recommendations for future action.

BACKGROUND

Europe’s landscape is modified every day by fragmentation, change and intensification of land use as a result of a persistent human development. Urban expansion and construction of road and energy infrastructures have degraded and divided valuable ecosystems affecting their habitats and species and reducing the spatial and functional coherence of the landscape.

The Communication on Green Infrastructure draws from the EU’s Resource Efficiency Roadmap and the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, in order to promote investing in and the use of Green Infrastructure in Europe.

GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE & HUNTING

The concept of Green Infrastructure is relevant to hunters and any future Green Infrastructure projects may have an influence on the areas where hunting activities are carried out. Therefore Green Infrastructure needs to work with us and not against us. In fact, hunters can provide expertise on coordinated management schemes (e.g. Game Management Units) and on individual local level actions (e.g. planting hedgerows and wild flower strips) which maintain a fundamental green infrastructure for the conservation of nature at a landscape level, thus strengthening and restoring ecosystems, increasing landscape connectivity and its capacity to respond to environmental change (e.g. climate change).

During 2011 the European Commission set up their Working Group on Green Infrastructure. The role of the Working Group was to provide opinions and recommendations for the GI strategy. Having volunteered as a task leader (on defining the role of the EU), FACE contributed significantly to this group, also with the help of its’ own expert group.

There are general elements which FACE supported and have been taken on board in this Communication. Notably: the way the EU sees its role in promoting the Green Infrastructure; the importance of the strategy respecting the subsidiarity of Member States (the EU has no direct competence in spatial planning) and that it remains a more general enabling framework taking into account regional specificities, as opposed to being specific and restrictive. Nevertheless, some coordination at EU level is required in order to implement Green Infrastructure more effectively; hence the strategy enables this by:

  • Facilitating the integration of Green Infrastructure into projects funded through the appropriate funding mechanisms such as the Common Agricultural Policy, the Cohesion Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, the Financial Instrument for the Environment (LIFE), etc.,
  • Bringing coherence into existing EU policies with an impact on land use, nature and biodiversity, and mainstreaming the Green Infrastructure concept into those (Regional or cohesion, climate change and environmental policies, disaster risk management, health and consumer policies and the Common Agricultural Policy,). By the end of 2013, the Commission will develop technical guidance setting out how Green Infrastructure will be integrated into the implementation of these policies from 2014 to 2020.

Valuable notions on the need for a balanced approach that emphasises the multifunctional nature of rural areas, and on the need for active stakeholder involvement remained in the Communication.

However other elements supported by FACE are no longer in the document:

  • Although the Green Infrastructure strategy is very inclusive, it does not explicitly mention the need to take into account the “ordinary biodiversity” (as opposed to priority and protected biodiversity covered by Natura 2000).
  • Although the strategy takes into account the need for stakeholder involvement, it does not explicitly mention that in a context of tight public budgets and great competition for public resources among policies and actors, positive incentives for voluntary actions for biodiversity and habitat connectivity need to be encouraged; which applies to stakeholders such as hunters (negative incentives would include unnecessary bureaucracy & restrictions).

Overall, this strategy provides a framework in which hunters and their associations have the opportunity to become active in selling their efforts for game management and biodiversity conservation under the banner of Green Infrastructure and to obtain relevant funding. Whilst smaller-scale actions (e.g. at Game Management Unit level) are highly relevant in the implementation of Green Infrastructure, hunters would gain a lot of political credibility, if they manage to coordinate a large-scale demonstration project (e.g. on the level of geographical features such as mountain ranges, river basins and forests) potentially in cooperation with several countries, funded by the EU.

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/ecosystems/