For what seems like the umpteenth time, the European Commission has called on Cyprus yet again to take measures to protect its Natura 2000 sites and to respect its obligations under the Habitats Directive, or it may refer the island to the European Court of Justice.
Under the directive, member states must propose EU sites of community importance, which are then added to EU biogeographical lists. Cyprus had a simple task and years in which to do it. Take the 37 areas in question and establish conservation objectives and measures to maintain or restore the species and habitats.
Of these 37 areas, objectives have not yet been set for three special areas of conservation and in the other 34 cases where they have been, they are either too vague or they do not properly identify the species targeted.
One might suspect the delay is either down to incompetence or vested interests.
Otherwise, it is difficult to understand why it’s taking so long to comply with this directive given that we are bombarded day in, day out by the same government with the messaging that we’re in a climate emergency.
The government was perfectly capable of implementing far-reaching measures on an entire population throughout the pandemic so it’s not as if they could not act fast if they were so inclined during an emergency.
On top of that they found the time to compile a 1000-page recovery and resilience plan 2021-2026 that’s almost all entirely based on the EU’s Green Deal. A search of the document reveals only four mentions of Natura 2000, all related to ‘Network Area Management’ – no further details – and six identical references talking of the need for a ‘Sustainable Development Plan of Akamas National Forest Park’.
By contrast there are 26 references to green taxation on consumers for water usage, driving fossil-fuel vehicles, and a universal waste charge, and 26 references on to how people’s behaviours can be changed using both the carrot and stick to ‘go green’.
“It is necessary to include and implement parallel, supportive and complimentary ‘bonus’ measures… to facilitate the acceptance of the ‘malus’ [unpleasant or painful] measures to be adopted though this reform… by motivating environmentally beneficial commuting habits or increasing costs for negatively impacting behaviours,” the report says.
Even if all of the measures laid out in the plan are necessary to ‘save the planet’, according to the government, it’s unfortunate that people will have to be browbeaten into it at risk of financial penalties.
This is particularly galling when we see the government itself not doing its bit and having to be slapped on the wrist every couple of months by Brussels for its own environmental failings.
Perhaps we need not worry in the end about the ‘malus’ measures to make us ‘go green’. If Cyprus is unable to fulfil its Natura obligations, it’s difficult to see how it will be able to implement something as far-reaching as the Green Deal.