Natural Scenery

EU Adopts Landmark Law for Nature Restoration by 2050

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EU Adopts Groundbreaking Regulation for Nature Restoration

The European Council has formally adopted the groundbreaking Nature Restoration Law, a pivotal regulation focused on the rejuvenation of natural ecosystems across its member states. This legislation sets an ambitious target to restore all degraded ecosystems by 2050.

The Nature Restoration Law was proposed by the European Commission in 2022, as a cornerstone of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, within the expansive framework of the European Green Deal. This legislative action is a direct response to the alarming reality that over 80% of European habitats are in poor condition, and previous conservation initiatives have been insufficient to reverse this trend. The European Parliament approved the law earlier this year in preparation for today’s Council approval.

Uniquely, this regulation not only seeks to protect but also to actively restore Europe’s natural environments, aligning with the EU’s global commitments, including those outlined in the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework established at the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15). By instituting these bold restoration targets, the EU affirms its dedication to halting biodiversity loss, enhancing ecosystem services, and building a resilient, sustainable future for its member states.

Legally Binding Targets for Ecosystem Restoration

The regulation stipulates specific, legally binding targets for restoring various ecosystems, including terrestrial, marine, freshwater, and urban environments. These measures are critical in mitigating climate change, combating the impacts of natural disasters, and fulfilling the EU’s international environmental commitments. The regulation will spearhead efforts to rehabilitate degraded ecosystems across Europe, bolster climate resilience, and enhance food security.

Restoration Goals and Priorities

Member states are required to implement strategies to restore 20% of their land and sea areas by 2030. The regulation encompasses a diverse range of ecosystems—terrestrial, coastal, freshwater, forest, agricultural, and urban—including critical habitats such as wetlands, grasslands, forests, rivers, lakes, and marine environments like seagrass beds and coral reefs.

Until 2030, priority will be given to Natura 2000 sites, which form the backbone of the EU’s nature conservation policy. Natura 2000 is the world’s largest network of protected areas, established to safeguard Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats. Covering about 18% of the EU’s land area and over 9% of its marine territory, these sites play a crucial role in preserving biodiversity and maintaining ecosystem health across the continent.

Natura 2000 sites include a wide array of ecosystems, from forests and grasslands to wetlands and marine habitats. These areas are designated under two key directives: the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. The Habitats Directive focuses on the conservation of natural habitats and wild species, mandating the establishment of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). The Birds Directive, on the other hand, protects wild birds and their habitats, creating Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Together, these sites are managed not only to conserve biodiversity but also to support sustainable human activities such as agriculture, forestry, and tourism.

For habitats identified as being in poor condition, the new regulation mandates incremental restoration targets to be achieved over the coming decades:

  • 30% restoration by 2030
  • 60% restoration by 2040
  • 90% restoration by 2050

Additionally, member states are tasked with preventing significant deterioration of areas already restored to good condition, ensuring sustained protection for both terrestrial and marine habitats outlined in the regulation.

Focus on Pollinators and Ecosystem-Specific Measures

Recognizing the significant decline in the populations of wild insect pollinators, the regulation introduces specific actions to reverse this trend by 2030. These actions are crucial for maintaining biodiversity and supporting agricultural productivity.

For different ecosystem types, the regulation delineates tailored measures. In agricultural landscapes, member states will focus on improving indicators such as the population of grassland butterflies, organic carbon stock in cropland soils, and the diversity of landscape features. In forests, enhancing bird populations and maintaining urban green spaces and tree canopy cover are prioritized.

The regulation also mandates the restoration of drained peatlands and supports the ambitious goal of planting three billion additional trees by 2030 across the EU. To restore the natural flow of rivers, member states are required to remove man-made barriers to facilitate the reconnection of 25,000 kilometers of surface waters by 2030.

Implementation and Monitoring

Member states are obligated to draft and submit national restoration plans to the European Commission, detailing how they will achieve the established targets. These plans must be supported by consistent monitoring and reporting, utilizing EU-wide biodiversity indicators.

Future Review and Socio-Economic Considerations

Upon its publication in the EU’s Official Journal, the regulation will take effect across all member states. By 2033, the Commission will review the regulation’s implementation and its impacts on agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and broader socio-economic dimensions.

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