The Habitats Directive as game changer for nature and law in the European Union: emerging trends and novel approaches

Leefmilieu Brussels, 13-14 December 2022 (hybrid)

© Kris Decleer


In 2022, the EU Habitats Directive celebrates its 30th birthday. As of today, this cornerstone of EU environmental law has turned into a grown-up adult, gradually reshaping itself in an unexpected hallmark of ecological law. That might come as a surprise, since in its beginning years the EU Habitats Directive was mainly used to tackle classic threats to the EU’s protected habitats and species, such as overhunting, direct destruction of natural habitats and unsustainable project developments. It was generally assumed that more transformative change would require new legislation. However, recent case-law developments before the Court of Justice of the EU have revealed that the EU Habitats Directive is capable of forcing Member States to tackle more systemic environmental challenges, such as nitrogen pollution, unsustainable forestry and even climate change. More and more, the EU Habitats Directive is used as a lever in strategic lawsuits directed against unsustainable lock-ins, such as intensive agriculture, fossil-based infrastructure and landscape fragmentation.

The unlocked potential of one of the most well-known pieces of EU legislation for also addressing more long-term environmental challenges is the main focus of this conference, which aims to take stock of the transformational character of the EU Habitats Directive and sketch the novel solutions and approaches might emerge in the 21st century, such as adaptive management and nature restoration.

The conference aims to take stock of the transformational character of the EU Habitats Directive in addressing current systemic environmental threats and sketch the novel solutions and approaches that emerge in light of these impending environmental pressures, such as climate change, generic and accumulated biodiversity loss and chemical pollution.

In doing so, the conference aims to address both theoretical as well as more practical questions and challenges when applying legislation aimed at preserving and restoring the integrity of Europe’s most threatened habitats and species in a time which is now referred to as the Anthropocene era, in which humans have become the main transforming force of the planet.

On Tuesday 13 December 2022, talks will focus on the unlocked potential of the Habitats Directive more in particular in terms of policy, strategic biodiversity litigation, the case of the wild hamster, sustainable agriculture.

On Wednesday 14 December 2022 future challenges and emerging trends for the Directive will be discussed, such as climate change, rights of nature, adaptive management, ecosystem restoration and finally, the keystone of enforcement.

The programme will include internationally renowned speakers from the European Environmental Agency, the European Commission, universities, ngo’s and environmental authorities.

The conference will take place physically, at the premises of Leefmilieu Brussel and online participation will be possible. Possible corona measures applicable in Belgium in December 2022 will followed by the organizers.

Target audience: academics, legal professionals, ngo, public authorities

An organisation of: