European Nature Outlook Report

European nature in the plural - Finding common ground for a next policy agenda- Article by David Jamieson, Parks & Greenspace Manager, City of Edinburgh Council

Thu 30 March 2017

Although we’ve had protections, strategies and action plans for many years now, halting biodiversity loss remains an important issue and persistent problem. Many species and habitats across Europe are expected to further decline as a consequence of urbanisation, climate change and agricultural demands, so the European Union is asking itself “how can we approach things differently” in order to meet biodiversity targets? To help the debate I recently spoke at the launch of a report called ‘European nature in the plural – Finding common ground for a next policy agenda’, using the Edinburgh Living Landscape initiative as an exemplar of how we can improve the ways we bring nature to people and encourage people to nature.

Essentially, the belief is that we need to better understand people’s motivations for engaging in nature and give greater attention to these if we are to realise our biodiversity ambitions. Taking the variety of people’s perspectives on nature into account could increase levels of engagement and make nature policies more effective. Current EU policy places little emphasis on these differences, but instead relies on the judgement of experts and professionals. To find a new common agenda for the future, it is vital to understand and take into account the various perspectives on nature that each party will bring to the table. This may open up a whole new reservoir of possible solutions and coalitions of citizens, businesses and public authorities.

Researchers have developed four main perspectives on nature. In each perspective, people are connected with nature in different ways, such as through their appreciation of the local landscape, of its intrinsic value, of the way it suits their individual life style, or because they regard it as an essential basis for a sustainable society. Based on such values, each perspective offers new approaches to the challenges facing nature in Europe, today. Challenges include finding a shared agenda for nature areas, making nature more relevant for the sustainability of economic sectors, and strengthening the connection between people and nature.

This approach does not imply that the EU should choose one perspective over the other. Rather, that a future nature vision is a many-faceted one, which not only contains protection of species, ecosystems and the services they provide, but also other objectives, ranging from ensuring areas of undisturbed nature and space for dynamic processes, to generating revenues and private initiatives. It argues that policymakers pay more attention to relational values and the fact that nature provides identity to people; addressing nature in such a way that it would foster a sense of place would be a promising step forward.

This report presents the basis for a new European-wide approach to nature and biodiversity beyond 2020. For more details go to

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