The Natura 2000 network provides many environmental, social and economic benefits.
It also requires substantial investment to protect, restore and manage the sites. This is estimated at €10.2 billion euro a year. Multiple funding sources are necessary to meet the funding needs of the network and deliver the benefits. The EU funds play a particularly important role in this process.
Prioritised Action Frameworks
The Habitats Directive makes a clear link between the necessary conservation measures and the EU co-financing. To facilitate the process, the EU Member States adopt prioritised action frameworks (PAFs) defining the funding needs and priorities for Natura 2000 at a national or regional level and potential sources of EU contribution.
An updated format (available in all EU languages) for prioritised action frameworks was developed in 2018 and has been used by the Member States to prepare their PAFs for current multiannual financial framework (2021-2027).
Based on the national action frameworks, the Commission has produced one at the EU level. This document follows up on the commitment made in the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 to update the estimate of the financing needs of the Natura 2000 network.
According to the latest estimates, the costs are
- 4.8 billion euro (47%) to maintain and restore the Natura 2000 network
- 2.5 billion euro (25%) for additional green infrastructure measures beyond Natura 2000
- 2.1 billion euro (20%) for horizontal and administrative measures
- 0.8 billion euro (8%) for species-specific measures
EU funds for Natura 2000
Each EU country is responsible for funding Natura 2000. Several EU financial instruments are available, however, to complement national funding.
A guide on “Financing Natura 2000 - EU Funding Opportunities in 2021-2027” can help EU Member States’ authorities identify in the current multiannual financial framework EU funds best adapted to manage and restore their Natura 2000 sites.
See also a 2017 analysis on experience with the integrated approach to financing Natura 2000 and wider biodiversity conservation from the EU budget to get an idea on how funding was used in the past.
The EU LIFE Programme has been supporting nature conservation projects across the EU since 1992. To date, LIFE has co-financed over 1800 projects to help restore habitats and species across the EU. Over 5400 Natura 2000 sites have benefited from LIFE funding during this period.
A 2018 study shows that LIFE has had a direct impact on the conservation status of numerous species and habitats such as the bearded vulture, the Iberian lynx and the Saimaa ringed seal.
Socio-economic benefits of Natura 2000
Natura 2000 sites provide a wide range of ecosystem benefits and services to society.
The following studies identify, evaluate and demonstrate the economic benefits provided by Natura 2000.
The first one offers a broad assessment of what that value could be. It puts the figure in the region of 200-300 billion euro 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.
The third 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.
See also: Final report on “The Health and Social Benefits of Nature and Biodiversity Protection”