In a significant move towards environmental protection, the Council of the European Union reached an agreement on a proposal for a nature restoration law on June 20th. This proposal aims to establish measures to recover at least 20% of the EU's land and sea areas by 2030 and restore all ecosystems in need by 2050. The law sets specific targets and obligations for nature restoration in various ecosystems, including agricultural land, forests, marine areas, freshwater bodies, and urban environments.
The agreement reached by the Council will serve as a basis for negotiations with the European Parliament to finalize the legislation. The text balances ambitious restoration goals and flexibility for member states in implementing the regulation, while ensuring fair competition and reducing administrative burdens.
Critical Elements of the Nature Restoration Law:
Restoration Obligations: Member states must implement restoration measures that bring at least 30% of habitats in terrestrial, coastal, freshwater, and marine ecosystems that are not in good condition into good condition by 2030. This applies to at least 30% of the total area of the habitat types rather than the area for each habitat group, as initially proposed by the Commission. By 2040, restoration measures must cover at least 60% of the area for each habitat group and, by 2050, at least 90% of the area.
Non-Deterioration Requirement: Member states must ensure that significant deterioration does not occur in areas undergoing restoration measures. For areas already in good condition or where restoration measures have not yet been implemented, efforts should be made to prevent significant deterioration. This includes results-based obligations for areas in good condition and effort-based obligations for areas awaiting restoration.
Ecosystem-Specific Obligations: The law includes obligations specific to different ecosystems, with certain flexibilities introduced by the Council. Instead of quantitative targets for urban ecosystems, member states must achieve an increasing trend in urban green areas until a satisfactory level is reached. The "no net loss" requirement ensures no reduction in urban green space and tree canopy cover by 2030 unless urban ecosystems already have over 45% green space.
National Restoration Plans: Member states will regularly submit national restoration plans to the European Commission, outlining how to meet the targets. The plans should identify threats, drivers of biodiversity loss, and restoration measures. Plan submissions will be made stepwise, with strategic overviews for subsequent periods, ensuring progress is monitored and reported.
Financing Restoration Measures: The Council has requested the European Commission provide a report one year after the law's implementation, assessing the available financial resources and funding needs and identifying gaps. The information will also include appropriate proposals. Member states raised concerns about the administrative burden and the need for additional financial and human resources, with some calling for a dedicated EU fund for restoration.
The Nature Restoration Law has been hailed as a turning point in EU policy for nature protection and biodiversity. However, there have been reservations and opposition from some member states. Concerns have been raised about the feasibility of mandatory requirements, potential impacts on agriculture, population density considerations, and administrative burdens. Nonetheless, adopting the Council's position serves as a solid signal to the European Parliament on the importance of biodiversity legislation.
The proposed law will now enter trialogue negotiations involving the Council, the European Parliament, and the European Commission. MEPs from the environment committee will finalize their position, followed by a plenary vote. The EU Commission recently presented suggested changes to address concerns and has welcomed the agreement and emphasized the need for nature restoration to safeguard food production. The EU environment commissioner has urged the parliament to adopt a position promptly to commence negotiations and finalize the draft law by year-end.
Taking Action for Nature:
The Nature Restoration Law signifies a significant commitment to addressing biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. Setting specific targets and obligations aims to ensure the restoration of vital habitats and the preservation of our natural environment. Implementing ambitious environmental policies and regulations is crucial. With the Nature Restoration Law, the EU aims to create a sustainable future for our planet.