On the International Biodiversity Day, the European Commission is launching the 2024 edition of the European Natura 2000 Award. The biannual Award, now in its seventh edition, honours leading nature conservation achievements connected to the Natura 2000 network. It also helps to raise awareness about Natura 2000 and the various benefits it provides for local communities and all of us.
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 22 May to 29 September 2023 and the Award Ceremony will take place in May 2024. The Natura 2000 Award rewards conservation success stories across five categories: Cross-border cooperation, Working together for nature, Communication, Marine conservation, and Conservation on land. In addition to prizes for each of the five categories, the Citizens’ Award provides the general public with an opportunity to vote for their favourite finalist.
Biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, everywhere around the world and in Europe, threatening our wellbeing and economy. This year’s global celebrations of the International Biodiversity Day bring with it a renewed sense of hope with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework at COP 15. But now, the focus must quickly shift to action.
The EU is committed to the swift implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework, through a number of its Green Deal initiatives, including the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the pioneering proposal for a Nature Restoration Law. As the largest network of protected areas in the world, the Natura 2000 network plays a key role in the achievement of international biodiversity goals, in particular the target to restore 30% of degraded ecosystems on land and on sea and to effectively protect and manage 30% of land and marine areas by 2030.
The launch also coincides with European Natura 2000 Day, celebrated yesterday. Natura 2000 Day has been celebrated across Europe by many different actors and with a brand new Natura 2000 Viewer that allows all Europeans to learn more about the Natura 2000 areas next to them. Citizens were also invited to join in BioBlitz challenges in Natura 2000 areas all over Europe. In 18 BioBlitzes, participants were invited to record as many species as possible using the ObsIdentify app, a fun challenge with a practical role in helping to bring biodiversity back into our lives, through citizens’ science.
The Natura 2000 network, the European Union network of protected areas, consists of over 27 500 terrestrial and marine sites, covering around 18 % of Europe’s land and nearly 10 % of the surrounding seas. It aims to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened habitats and species, safeguarding them for future generations. It also provides a wide range of products and services beneficial to society and the economy.
Natura 2000 is based on a concept of conservation centred on people working with nature. It seeks to find local solutions to local management issues in close cooperation with landowners, stakeholders, local authorities and any other interested parties. The Natura 2000 Award pays tribute to everyone working for the maintenance and protection of this precious network that stretches across the entire European Union.
In the previous six editions, the Natura 2000 Award has received 544 applications with 142 finalists and 35 winners.
The benefits for applicants are many: they will be showcased across Europe through European Commission communication channels. Finalists and winners will be invited to share their success stories with an EU-wide audience in Brussels, to meet and exchange with fellow Natura 2000 heroes, and will receive support to continue future conservation efforts. Most importantly, their success stories – ranging from best practices, innovative tools for habitat assessment and species protection, combining nature protection and economic benefits or social inclusion as well as increasing awareness for Natura 2000 – serve as inspiring examples for everyone.
Source: European Commission I Environment (https://shorturl.at/bftEN)