Restoring nature in the EU

Posted on 02 November 2020

Joint NGO position paper on the EU restoration law
The EEA’s State of Nature in the EU report was bleak – the EU has missed its 2020 biodiversity targets by a long shot1. Habitat fragmentation, loss and degradation as a result of land and sea use change, for example through agricultural intensification, grey infrastructure developments, overfishing or intensified forestry, is widespread2. Further major drivers of biodiversity loss, such as the over-exploitation of natural resources both on land and at sea, the effects of the climate crisis, pollution and invasive alien species have also contributed to the decline in quantity and quality of important ecosystems, as well as to the decline in nature’s contribution to people across Europe3,4.

The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 includes a commitment that ‘’subject to an impact assessment, the [European] Commission will put forward a proposal for legally binding EU nature restoration targets in 2021 to restore degraded ecosystems, in particular those with the most potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters.’’ These legally binding targets will require a new legal instrument, further referred to as the ‘restoration law’, that presents a major opportunity for turning the tide against biodiversity loss by giving the strategy some teeth while also contributing to climate mitigation and adaptation.

WWF, together with 19 other nature protection NGOs, most of whom are members of the European Habitats Forum, have published a policy paper - Restoring the EU's nature - presenting joint recommendations on key elements of the restoration law, focusing on the objectives, targets, criteria, measures, governance and finance aspects of the new law.
Besides the detailed recommendations, three main points are underlined in the paper:
  • The new restoration law must be targeted and result in large-scale restoration across the EU. The law should be compact, targeted and directly actionable in order to quickly lead to significant improvements in 15% of the EU’s land and sea area, leading to ‘high quality nature’ with a significant positive impact on biodiversity.
  • The new law should be additional to the relevant EU Directives so as to not undermine or duplicate existing EU nature and water protection obligations that include some restoration requirements. The legislation must explicitly go beyond what is already required by the Habitats Directive and other EU legislation (mainly Birds Directive, Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategies Framework Directive) to build upon the existing obligations.
  • The restoration law should create synergies between the biodiversity and climate crisis agenda by putting a specific focus on biodiverse ecosystems with significant carbon storage and sequestration potential, such as peatlands, floodplains, wetlands, old-growth forests, biodiversity rich grasslands, coastal areas or marine ecosystems. Nonetheless, the focus and primary objective of the new law should remain on tackling biodiversity loss.


1. EEA, ‘The European Environment - state and outlook for 2020’ (2019)
2. IPBES, ‘Regional Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Europe and Central Asia’ (2018)
3. IPBES, ‘Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ (2019)
4. EEA, ‘The European Environment - state and outlook for 2020’ (2019)

Sabien Leemans
Senior Policy Officer for Biodiversity
WWF European Policy Office

Edel Shanahan
Communications Officer for Biodiversity & Agriculture
WWF European Policy Office
A Deciduous forest in autumn in Cilento National Park, Campania, Ital
© Luca Scudiero / WWF-Italy