With binding targets and obligations, EU countries must restore at least 20 percent of Europe’s land and sea areas by 2030, and all ecosystems where restoration is needed by 2050. The agreement must now be formally approved.
The Nature Restoration Act is intended to slow down and restore the decline of European nature. Last spring, the proposal entered turbulent waters. Several Member States feared that their agricultural sector or economic development would be hampered.
In the European Parliament, the EPP group argued that European food security would be threatened. Despite this history, the EU countries and Parliament have now reached an agreement.
Restoration measures must therefore be introduced in at least 20 percent of all land and sea areas in Europe by 2030. By 2050, this should be extended to all ecosystems where restoration is needed. Numerous habitats have been listed that are included in the scope of the Nature Restoration Act, and detailed objectives are set for the Member States for each of these areas. By 2030, at least 30 percent of the habitat types covered by the new law must be restored to good condition, 60 percent by 2040, and 90 percent by 2050.
One of the final points of discussion was the scope of the Nature Restoration Act. It has now been agreed that priority will be given to the already protected Natura 2000 areas until 2030. When an area is in good condition, Member States will have to strive to prevent (new) deterioration. This is an obligation of best efforts, and therefore not an obligation of results. This deterioration ban was also a concern for the Flemish government, which feared that too little account was being taken of densely populated areas.
Other elements of the agreement include that three billion additional trees will be planted in the European Union and that Europe must have at least 25,000 kilometers of free-flowing rivers – without man-made barriers. From 2030, there should be no net loss of the total national area of urban greenery and of tree cover in urbanized areas. Afterwards, both must grow back. The Member States will be checked for this every six years.
At the request of the European Parliament, an emergency brake will be placed on the application of the nature restoration law. This means that in exceptional circumstances, the targets for agro-ecosystems can be suspended if they threaten to jeopardize the availability of agricultural land for food supply.
The political agreement must now be formally approved by the European Parliament and the 27 Member States. Normally something like this is a formality, but because the nature restoration law was very controversial, no one dares to put their hand in the fire for it.