European Legislation


The EU plays a crucial role in developing policy and legislation to protect the environment and meet its objective for sustainable development. The EU has specific targets for biodiversity conservation with legislative protection for key habitats and species.  


EU legislation relates to a wide range of issues, including biodiversity, farming and forestry, fisheries, air pollution, waste and climate change. As a Member State, the UK Government provides evidence and expertise to develop policies and is responsible (together with the other Member States’ Governments) for agreeing and implementing EU legislation.


The EU and global biodiversity targets are partly delivered through a range of legislative measures, which place obligations on Member States to protect biodiversity and the natural environment. The EU and Member States have shared legal competence - shared responsibility – in forming and implementing legislation for the environment.


In relation to wildlife and nature conservation, two key Directives have been adopted by the European Union, namely:


  • Directive 2009/147/EC  on the conservation of wild birds (the codified version of Council Directive 79/409/EEC as amended) (Birds Directive)  and
  • Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive).


These Directives provide for the protection of animal and plant species of European importance and the habitats which support them, particularly through the establishment of a network of protected sites, called Natura 2000.


JNCC designed a searchable database on environmental case law relating to the EU Habitats Directive and the EU Birds Directive. The current version (Version 1.0) includes all relevant cases from courts in the UK and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) up until December 2013 using the Westlaw, Lexis Library, Lawtel and Curia legal databases.


Further relevant legislation includes Directive 92/43/EEC (Water Framework Directive), under which Member States are required to protect and improve their inland and coastal waters, and Directive 2008/56/EC (Marine Strategy Framework Directive) to achieve good environmental status in their marine environment by 2020. 


The EU’s environmental legislation is complemented by a variety of other non-binding policy instruments such as strategies, programmes and action plans to address the wider use of terrestrial and marine resources.  By these means, the EU also aims to fulfill its international commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity.


Last updated 10 March 2015