The EU Nature Restoration Law knocks on the Environment Council’s door

Posted on December, 15 2022

At the first exchange on the Nature Restoration Law, EU environment ministers must express their firm commitment to bringing nature back to Europe.
What’s happening?

On Tuesday 20 December 2022, EU environment ministers will have the first opportunity to exchange views on the proposal for the EU Nature Restoration Law. The proposal tabled by the European Commission in June 2022 includes legally binding restoration targets for various ecosystems across the EU and is a huge opportunity to put our degraded nature on a path to recovery. The Commission’s proposal will be discussed in the Environment Council, which leads the Council’s work on the proposal for a Regulation on nature restoration. 

This meeting is of great significance as the discussions will set the scene for the negotiations in the upcoming months, and support for a strong and ambitious EU Nature Restoration Law from Member States will be crucial to maintain the overall ambition level of the legislation. In line with the urgency of the intertwined nature and climate crises, it is key that Member States endorse the overarching target to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and at least 20% of the EU sea areas by 2030, as highlighted in the NGOs’ analysis of the proposal

Recovering our degraded ecosystems, above all those with the most potential to capture and store carbon, is key to achieving the EU’s climate and biodiversity goals, as well as its international commitments. While the future of global biodiversity action is at stake during the ongoing discussions at the COP15 conference in Montreal, on 20 December EU environment ministers must show their strong support for effective, large-scale restoration action at the EU level and for a timely process in the Environment Council. 

Why does this matter?

An ambitious and timely EU Nature Restoration Law can be a game-changer for nature, people, the climate and the economy as every €1 invested in nature restoration adds between €8 to €38 in economic value1. Large-scale nature restoration is urgently needed across our continent to reverse devastating biodiversity loss, maintain crucial benefits provided by nature (clean air and water, food, crop pollination) and make Europe more resilient to the impacts of climate change, such as severe droughts and floods. Europe cannot afford to exploit and fail its nature any longer, and with this law Member States can make one of their best investments - in nature.  

With over 80% of EU habitats having poor or bad conservation status, European biodiversity is currently in an alarming decline2. Various habitats and species are pressured by intensive agriculture, overfishing, pollution and climate change. While the protection of remaining nature is crucial, it is no longer enough to halt biodiversity loss in Europe and large-scale nature restoration has become a must. With the EU Nature Restoration Law, for the very first time in the EU legally binding restoration targets are set for ecosystems such as forests and peatlands, freshwater, marine and urban ecosystems, and agricultural land. When adopted, the law will oblige Member States to develop a national restoration plan to ensure that restoration measures are put in place to achieve specific targets for each ecosystem and effectively recover nature in Europe.

Sabien Leemans, Senior Biodiversity Officer, WWF European Policy Office, said: “We will repeat it as long as necessary – science is crystal clear that biodiversity and climate crises are urgent and interlinked. Nature restoration is a solution to address them both. We expect EU environment ministers to express their full support for this positive agenda as now is the moment to bring nature back on a large scale. Nature restoration is our best insurance policy against climate change impacts and it also provides long-term food security.”

What does WWF want?

First and foremost, WWF calls on EU environment ministers to express their support for the Nature Restoration Law and declare their commitment to a timely process in the ENVI Council. 

More specifically, the focus of this ENVI Council meeting will be the ambition level of the legal proposal and the non-deterioration provisions. In this regard, WWF is calling to strengthen the ambition level of the proposal in two ways: 

  • The overarching objective, to put in place effective and area-based restoration measures on at least 20% of the EU’s land and at least 20% of the EU’s sea area by 2030, must be strengthened by ensuring that all Member States contribute in a fair and accountable way. This will ensure a level playing field where all countries contribute equally and will enhance flexibility for Member States.
  • The timeline for putting restoration measures in place to reach the restoration targets for specific ecosystems needs to be brought forward. It takes time for the benefits of nature restoration measures, like the rewetting of drained peatlands, to materialise. So measures need to be implemented earlier to ensure their contribution to the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality target.

Strong non-deterioration provisions will ensure Member States can reach their restoration targets in the most cost-effective way and that the significant financial investments in restoration will remain effective in the long run. A strong non-deterioration principle further provides opportunities to maximise the impact of the investments by enabling restoration sites to contribute to the EU Biodiversity Strategy’s target to protect 30% of the EU’s land and sea area by 2030, with a third thereof under strict protection.

Notes to editors:

Sabien Leemans
Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer

Ola Miklasińska
Communications Officer, Biodiversity
Science is crystal clear that biodiversity and climate crises are urgent and interlinked. Nature restoration is a solution to address them both.
© Wild Wonders of Europe  / Diego Lopez / WWF