EU Nature restoration law: reached the provisional agreement

On 9 November 2023, a provisional agreement was reached between the European Parliament and the Council on the Nature Restoration Law. Once adopted and applied in the EU Member States, the law is expected to help in reaching climate neutrality by 2050 and increasing Europe’s preparedness and resilience to the effects of climate change.

The law should set in motion a process for continuous and sustained recovery of nature across the EU’s land and sea. As an overall target to be reached on EU level, Member States will put in place restoration measures in at least 20 % of the EU’s land areas and 20 % of its seas by 2030. By 2050 such measures should be in place for all ecosystems that need restoration.

Nature restoration targets

Co-legislators agreed on an EU target to restore at least 20% of land and 20% of sea areas by 2030 and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. To reach these targets, EU countries must restore at least 30% of habitat types covered by the new law that are in poor condition to a good condition by 2030, increasing to 60% by 2040, and 90% by 2050.

Member states will have to adopt, through an open, transparent and inclusive process, national restoration plans detailing how they intend to achieve these targets. In line with Parliament’s position, EU countries should give priority to areas located in Natura 2000 sites until 2030. The co-legislators also agreed that once an area has achieved a good condition, EU countries shall aim to ensure it does not significantly deteriorate.

Agricultural ecosystems

To restore nature in land used by the agriculture sector, EU countries will have to put in place measures which shall aim to achieve, by the end of 2030 and every six years thereafter, a positive trend in two of the following three indicators:

– the grassland butterfly index

– the share of agricultural land with high-diversity landscape features

– the stock of organic carbon in cropland mineral soil.

Restoring drained peatlands is one of the most cost-effective measures to reduce emissions in the agricultural sector and improve biodiversity. EU countries must therefore put in place restoration measures for organic soils in agricultural use constituting drained peatlands on at least 30% of such areas by 2030 (at least a quarter shall be rewetted), 40% by 2040 (at least one-third shall be rewetted) and 50% by 2050 (at least one-third shall be rewetted) but rewetting will remain voluntary for farmers and private landowners.

EU countries must also reverse the decline of pollinator populations at the latest by 2030 and achieve thereafter an increasing trend measured at least every six years.

Other ecosystems

By 2030, EU countries will have to put in place measures with the aim to achieve a positive trend in several indicators in forest ecosystems. At the same time, an additional three billion trees must also be planted in the EU and at least 25 000 km of rivers must be restored into free-flowing rivers.

EU countries shall also ensure that by 2030 there is no net loss in the total national area of urban green space, and of urban tree canopy cover in urban ecosystem areas compared to 2021. After 2030 they must increase this, with progress measured every six years.

Financing and emergency brake

Within 12 months of this Regulation entering into force, the Commission will have to assess any gap between restoration financial needs and available EU funding and look into solutions to bridge a gap if it finds one.

Negotiators also agreed on an emergency brake, as requested by Parliament, so targets for agricultural ecosystems can be suspended under exceptional circumstances if they create severe EU wide consequences on the availability of land required to secure sufficient agricultural production for EU food consumption.

Next steps 

The European Parliament and the Council will now formally have to adopt the new Regulation. Once this is done, it will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. Member States will then need to submit their first nature restoration plan to the Commission within two years of the entry into force.  

Source: European Parliament and EU Commission

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