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The EU’s Nature Restoration Law: The bigger picture at stake

Sustainability / EPC FLASH ANALYSIS
Filipe Ataíde Lampe

Date: 14/06/0023
While the European parliamentarians are about to vote on the EU’s Nature Restoration Law, much is at stake. Restoring Europe’s nature is a long-term investment in health, well-being, the economy and reversing biodiversity loss worldwide.

The proposal aims to enable the long-term recovery of natural ecosystems while at the same time contributing to climate adaptation and mitigation measures. The aim is to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and maritime areas by 2030 and all ecosystems in poor to bad quality by 2050. The law would embed a set of targets addressed specifically at revitalising ecosystems in forests as well as in urban, maritime, and agricultural areas. Furthermore, it would address the rehabilitation of free-flowing rivers and reverse the decline of pollinator populations. To enforce these targets, member states would be required to draft and submit their restoration plans within two years after the adoption of the proposal.

What seems like an uncontroversial proposal has proved problematic in recent weeks. The fact that the restoration measures are also targeted at agricultural areas meets with rejection from parts of the European People's Party (EPP) and might now put the success of the proposal in jeopardy. Questions on the EPP's general stance on the implementation of the European Green Deal, and thus for Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, will be raised ahead of the 2024 European Parliament elections.

It is, above all, the bigger picture which is at stake; the restoration of the EU’s natural habitats, 80% of which are in ‘poor’ shape, is highly interconnected with multiple policy fields. Firstly, it is consensual that bringing back nature into Europe’s cities, villages and the countryside is vital for citizens’ health and well-being, protecting them from life-cycle risks caused by heat waves and extreme weather accelerated by the climate crisis. Secondly, 50 top-flight companies have recently urged EU lawmakers to adopt the law as healthy ecosystems are the basis for sustainable businesses, which speaks for itself. Finally, how can the EU be a credible advocate for biodiversity protection at the global level, and how can it urge partners to commit to agreements such as the 30% protection target of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) or the restoration of the Amazon rainforest, if it fails to address the degradation of its very own natural ecosystems?

It is now up to European lawmakers to see the bigger picture and protect the livelihoods of all living creatures and, thus, citizens. A system based on the exploitation and displacement of nature is more than ‘out-of-fashion’ and can no longer be a viable option, not in Europe and not worldwide.

Filipe Ataíde Lampe is a Project Manager of the Connecting Europe project at the European Policy Centre.

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