The European Commission is proposing the first-ever legislation that explicitly targets the restoration of Europe’s nature, to repair the 80% of European habitats that are in poor condition, and to bring back nature to all ecosystems, from forest and agricultural land to marine, freshwater and urban ecosystems. Under this proposal for a Nature Restoration Law, legally binding targets for nature restoration in different ecosystems will apply to every Member State, complementing existing laws. The aim is to cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 with nature restoration measures, and eventually extend these to all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

The legislative proposal for binding nature restoration targets presented by the European Commission can put the EU’s degraded ecosystems on a path to recovery, NGOs say. The European Environmental Bureau has said that: The Commission’s proposal is a huge milestone; it is the first major piece of EU biodiversity legislation since the Habitats Directive in 1992. We call for its urgent adoption and implementation as it is a true and strong attempt to reverse the tide of biodiversity loss and climate change. The European Parliament and Council of the EU must fully endorse the positive elements and strengthen the existing weaknesses without delay.

Strong elements

The text includes strong elements such as the overarching objective for area-based restoration measures on 20% of the EU land and sea area by 2030, as well as time-bound restoration obligations for natural habitats, covering terrestrial, coastal, freshwater and marine ecosystems. These have a potential to improve the state of nature at large scale.

In addition, it is good to see that Member States will have to draw up national restoration plans with the key elements on what to restore where and how to finance it. The Commission’s review and linked obligation for Member States to adapt their plans accordingly are also promising to ensure that the plans actually deliver.

What needs to improve

By failing to overcome the deadlock risk posed by the Common Fisheries Policy’s ineffective procedure for managing destructive fishing impacts, the marine restoration targets risk being unimplementable and empty in practice. A safeguard mechanism should therefore be added to ensure the Commission can break the deadlock if Member States cannot agree to the measures required to achieve the restoration targets.

The European Commission’s proposal for a Nature Restoration Law can be found here.

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