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Saturday, July 13, 2024

EU Council Adopts Landmark Nature Restoration Regulation

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Today, the Council of the European Union formally adopted a groundbreaking regulation on nature restoration, marking a significant milestone in environmental protection. This first-of-its-kind law aims to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

The regulation sets legally binding targets and obligations for nature restoration across various ecosystems, including terrestrial, marine, freshwater, and urban areas. Its goal is to mitigate climate change, address natural disasters, and fulfill the EU’s international environmental commitments.

“I am pleased with this positive vote on the Nature Restoration Law, which was agreed between the European Parliament and the Council almost a year ago. It is the result of hard work, which has paid off. There is no time for a break in protecting our environment,” stated Alain Maron, Minister for Climate Transition, Environment, Energy, and Participatory Democracy of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region. “Today, the Council of the EU is choosing to restore nature in Europe, thereby protecting its biodiversity and the living environment of European citizens. It is our duty to respond to the urgency of the collapse of biodiversity in Europe, but also to enable the European Union to meet its international commitments. The European delegation will be able to go to the next COP with its head held high.”

Restoring Land and Sea Ecosystems

The new regulation mandates member states to restore degraded ecosystems, enhancing climate mitigation, adaptation, and food security. By 2030, member states must restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas, prioritizing Natura 2000 sites. Specific targets include:

  • Restoring at least 30% of habitats in poor condition by 2030
  • Restoring at least 60% by 2040
  • Restoring at least 90% by 2050

Additionally, member states must prevent significant deterioration of areas already in good condition and protect terrestrial and marine habitats listed in the regulation.

Protecting Pollinators

Addressing the dramatic decline in wild insect pollinators, the regulation introduces measures to reverse this trend by 2030.

Ecosystem-Specific Measures

The regulation outlines specific restoration requirements for different ecosystems, such as agricultural land, forests, and urban areas. Member states will enhance indicators like grassland butterfly populations, organic carbon in cropland soils, and high-diversity landscape features. Measures will also aim to increase forest bird populations and prevent net loss of urban green spaces and tree canopy cover by 2030.

Restoration efforts include rehabilitating drained peatlands, planting at least three billion trees by 2030, and converting 25,000 km of rivers into free-flowing rivers by removing man-made barriers.

Under the new rules, member states must submit national restoration plans to the Commission, demonstrating how they will achieve these targets. Progress will be monitored and reported based on EU-wide biodiversity indicators.

The regulation will be published in the EU’s Official Journal and become directly applicable in all member states. By 2033, the Commission will review the regulation’s application and its impacts on agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and broader socio-economic effects.

Proposed by the European Commission on June 22, 2022, under the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, this regulation is part of the European Green Deal. With over 80% of European habitats in poor condition, this historic regulation aims not just to preserve but to restore nature, helping the EU meet its international commitments, particularly the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed at the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15).

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