Cohesion Policy not focused enough on financing biodiversity
The study has found that only half of the Operational Programmes - the disbursement mechanism of Cohesion Policy funds - are designed to support our natural capital.
“Since 7% of Jobs in the EU are dependent on ecosystem services and the EU´s network of protected areas is generating at least 200 billion EUR per year, it is fair to expect that Cohesion Policy funds should work better to support environment protection and biodiversity”, said Raluca Dan, Policy and Green Funds Officer at the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme, responsible for the study.
One major recommendation of the report is that biodiversity and nature conservation are included as thematic priorities for each Operational Programme.
“This would make a huge difference because, traditionally, Cohesion Policy of the EU has paid little attention to issues related to nature conservation and biodiversity. Indeed, its initiatives have been criticized for having negative impact on biodiversity. This can be avoided in the future if nature conservation is an integral part of the thematic priorities for each Operational Programme ”, Dan said.
Examples of putting Cohesion Policy funds to good use are actions such as the creation of green corridors to improve the connectivity between natural areas and ensure species migration, as well as cross-border and transnational initiatives to support connectivity within landscapes, including riverbed restoration or removal of river dams to facilitate fish migration.
“Some good practice projects that have been funded by Cohesion Policy money are the ecological restoration of Comana wetland in Romania, the restoration of the Alpine-Carpathian corridor and a project for beach nourishment in Liguria, Italy”, Dan said.
In some countries, such as in Poland, training activities in writing applications related to nature conservation are offered and beneficiaries can receive pre-financing.
The Operational Programmes analysis provides valuable information which can shape the criteria for the new EU budget period 2014 to 2020, improving both programme quality and implementation.
About the SURF Nature projectThe SURF Nature project financed by INTERREG IVc aims to identify good practices in financing biodiversity from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the Cohesion Policy and to provide ideas how to improve regional policy funding for biodiversity. Project partners are 14 public bodies from 10 countries in the EU, which are responsible for the implementation of ERDF funding or have experience in applying for funding. The project focuses on the analysis of Operational Programmes and on an analysis of good practice examples for nature conservation and biodiversity financed through ERDF.
One of the first and central activities of the project was the analysis of Operational Programmes in the partner regions in order to screen the programmes for their integration of biodiversity and nature conservation as well as check on the implementations of “code 51” (a financial category, which is part of all Operational Programmes and stands for the promotion of biodiversity and nature conservation).