The Habitats Directive and Climate Change: Is the Law Climate Proof?
In: C. Born, A. Cliquet, H. Schoukens, D. Misonne & G. van Hoorick (eds.), The Habitats Directive in its EU Environmental Law Context: European Nature’s Best Hope?, Routledge 2014, 303-324
21 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2015
Date Written: 2014
In Europe, as elsewhere, climate change is adding significant new challenges to the many threats already faced by wild flora and fauna, the ecosystems of which they are part, and biological diversity (biodiversity) at large. The composition of ecosystems is profoundly affected, as species’ ranges shift in response to altering climatic conditions, and populations struggle to cope with increasingly frequent extreme weather events. In parallel, climate change is also posing significant challenges to the law that is applicable to nature conservation in Europe. It is now evident that, in order to meet agreed biodiversity targets, specific conservation action is required to help species adapt to climate change with minimal losses. This imperative to help nature adapt to climate change was not apparent at the time most of the existing legal instruments aimed at nature conservation, including the EU Habitats Directive, came into being. The leading paradigm for most conservation instruments, again including the Directive, has been to maintain or restore the status quo rather than facilitating change. Against this background, the objective of this paper is to assess to what extent the Habitats Directive as it stands is capable of accommodating and facilitating the adaptation of European wildlife and habitats to climate change, and to examine how its capacity to do so might be improved.
Keywords: climate change, adaptation, biodiversity, wildlife, Habitats Directive, EU law, environmental law
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