The EU reaches consensus on legislation to protect nature

The EU reaches consensus on legislation to protect nature

The EU has given the green light to the long-awaited ‘Nature Restoration Law’, which aims to repair the EU’s damaged ecosystems. The law aims to restore all ecosystems that require restoration by 2050 and at least 20 percent of the land and sea areas in the EU by 2030. It passed through a final parliament vote on February 27th, with 329 votes in favour, 275 against, and 24 abstentions.

Background on the legislation

The law was first proposed in June 2022 and is recognised by the European Commission as a critical part of achieving the EU’s biodiversity and climate objectives. 

Since the law was proposed in 2022, it has received widespread support from hundreds of scientists, wind energy and solar power associations, dozens of major companies, and non-governmental organisations. 

Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg was among a group of climate activists demanding a strong restoration law in Strasbourg last July. The law still has to be approved by the EU Council before it can take effect.

What does the law set out to achieve?

The legislation is intended to complement other environmental policies on issues spanning habitats, water, birds, and invasive species. Its goals also coincide with the most recent EU 2030 forest plan, which aims to preserve and rehabilitate forests throughout the Union.

According to the European Commission, over 80 percent of Europe’s natural habitats are in poor condition. The law requests EU countries to prioritise restoring habitats that are “not in good condition” and situated in Natura 2000 sites (an EU network of protected areas containing at-risk ecosystems and species) until 2030. These areas are considered “essential” for nature conservation. 

EU countries will be required to submit national restoration plans to the commission to unveil how they plan to meet key targets, with requirements for reporting and monitoring on their progress towards those objectives. Ultimately, the new law stems from the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, which aims to create legally binding targets to restore significant areas of carbon-rich and degraded ecosystems by 2030.

Healthier ecosystems offer a plethora of broad benefits, from increasing climate resilience to helping mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and curbing the impact of extreme weather events. Currently, just 26 percent of the EU’s lands and 12 percent of marine areas are protected. The Nature Restoration Law is the first continent-wide, comprehensive law of its kind. With Europe’s nature in an alarming decline, it could be a very promising piece of legislation. 

Final thoughts

Seeking to address the deteriorating condition of more than 80 percent of European habitats, the EU Nature Restoration Law will strive to rehabilitate ecosystems across all Member States. Its overarching goals include contributing to the attainment of the EU’s climate and biodiversity objectives while bolstering food security.

Having gained approval from Parliament, the law is now poised for adoption by the Council. This step, though perceived merely as a formality, is underscored by the unanimous agreement of all EU Member States during the negotiation phase.

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