Celebrating the Natura 2000 Day, the European Commission has launched the 2022 edition of the European Natura 2000 Award. The Award, now in its sixth edition, honours and gives recognition to leading nature conservation achievements connected to Europe’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas.
The Natura 2000 Award helps to raise awareness about Natura 2000, the work carried out by different organisations and individuals to safeguard these vital natural assets and the health, cultural, societal and economic benefits the network provides to us all.
“With 65 per cent of the EU population living within 5 kilometres of a Natura 2000 site, this vast network of areas of high biodiversity value literally brings nature to our doorstep, allowing people to enjoy its multiple benefits,” said Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius. “I would like to honour all those individuals and organisations who are making this happen and invite them to respond to our new Natura 2000 Award call and get the recognition they deserve.”
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 until September 2021.
This year’s Natura 2000 Day pays tribute to the proximity of Natura 2000 sites to citizens across Europe and the benefits this network brings to them and the planet, including its contribution to health. Nature has an important restorative and stress-reducing effect, letting us reconnect with ourselves and with others. Even taking a short walk or a break from work in a nature area can have positive effects on our mental and physical well-being.
Protected areas are also becoming part of the global momentum for nature in this crucial year for biodiversity. The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP 15), taking place in Kunming, China in October 2021, is expected to deliver a crucial global agreement for life on earth: a new Global Biodiversity Framework, an agreement as essential as the 2015 Paris Agreement addressing the climate crisis.
Ahead of the CoP 15, the European Commission has launched the Global Coalition United for Biodiversity, which calls on all world museums, zoos, aquariums, research centres, universities, national parks and botanical gardens to join forces in raising awareness about the nature crisis.
Over the previous five editions, the Natura 2000 Award has received over 500 applications and has celebrated 121 finalists and 29 winners. For example, in 2020, the winner of the European Citizens’ Award managed to gather well over 11 000 votes to support their Partnership for the protection of Bulgarian old-growth forests in Natura 2000. Saving old-growth forest is one of the key objectives set out by the European Commission in the new EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 and the prize underlines the significance that EU citizens attach to this challenge.