Commission Adoption: Protecting biodiversity - nature restoration targets under EU biodiversity strategy (Nature Restoration Law)
The proposal on protecting biodiversity is one of the key measures announced in the Biodiversity Strategy’s Nature Restoration Plan. The initiative proposes legally binding nature restoration targets. Existing legislation, such as the Birds and Habitats Directives, the Water Framework Directive, the Floods Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, does partially require nature restoration. However, there are currently no requirements for Member States to have biodiversity restoration plans, and there is a lack of clear or binding targets and timelines and no definition or criteria on restoration or on the sustainable use of ecosystems. There are also no clear links between restoration needs and EU funding instruments in most cases, and there is no requirement to comprehensively map, monitor, assess and achieve good condition of ecosystems.
The key objective of the proposal is to restore degraded ecosystems to achieve the goal of all ecosystems being in good condition by 2050, which is grounded in the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Commission adoption took place on 22 June 2022 after multiple delays due to various MEPs, the Council Presidency, Commissioner Wojciechowski and big players in the farming industry such as Copa-Cogeca arguing that the situation in Ukraine heightens fears of a food security crisis in Europe and therefore is not an appropriate time to apply more standards to EU farmers.
The Nature Restoration Law includes legally-binding targets for nature restoration in different ecosystems, aiming to cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 with restoration measures. Currently, 81% of EU-protected habitats are in poor condition, with 36% deteriorating and only 9% improving. Commissioner Sinkevicius highlighted that by preventing soil erosion, the EU was in fact acting on food security as 70% of soil was in bad shape, limiting food production. Additionally, restoring wetlands will contribute to avoiding floods. During the Commission’s presentation, Commissioner Sinkevicius emphasised that nature restoration would not necessarily lead to more protected areas, and that not all restored areas would need to become protected areas. The Commission has also highlighted that the Nature Restoration Law should also lead to inclusive restoration, and should have a positive impact on farmers, foresters and fishers. Notable targets of the proposal include: no net loss of green urban spaces by 2030 and a 5% increase by 2050; a minimum 10% tree canopy cover in every European city, town and suburb; and removing river barriers so that at least 25 000 km of rivers will be free-flowing by 2030. Ecosystems, habitats, and animals that will be targeted include pollinators, butterflies, farmland birds, soils, peatland, forest, marine habitats and species including dolphins, sharks, and seabirds, and rivers.
The public consultation ended in April 2021, while feedback to the legislative document can be submitted until the 20th August.