D-Day for Nature
12 July is a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change, as the European Parliament votes on the Nature Restoration Law
The Nature Restoration Law (NRL) would set legally binding targets for the recovery of degraded ecosystems across Europe, ranging from large-scale reforestation efforts and the protection of wetlands to the revitalization of marine habitats. This move would increase ecological resilience, provide a framework for protecting natural biodiversity and begin a move toward a more sustainable economy.
The law was proposed by the European Commission in 2022 to combat destructive trends which have led to over 80% of European habitats being in “poor” or “bad” conservation status. According to the Commission, peatlands, dunes and grasslands have been hit the worst. Peatlands are among the most carbon-rich ecosystems on Earth and in their natural state have a net cooling effect on the planet, as well as a host of other benefits. Human activity has led to the drainage of these areas and the decomposition of plant material, which releases CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Dunes are also important, as they provide natural coastal protection against flooding as well as being a habitat for a diverse amount of wildlife. By acknowledging the critical role of healthy ecosystems in supporting life on Earth, the Nature Restoration Law aims to address the root causes of environmental degradation and ensure the long-term well-being of both nature and humanity.
The law would require countries to establish measures to recover 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and all ecosystems by 2050. These targets would be legally binding and would demonstrate a resolute commitment from policymakers to address the urgent need for nature conservation. The law also includes targets concerning specific ecosystems, many of which will provide clear benefits for people's lives. For example, a target for no net loss in green urban space by 2030. The law also aims to reverse the decline of pollinator populations by 2030. EU countries are expected to submit National Restoration Plans to the Commission within two years of the Regulation coming into force, showing how they will deliver on the targets. They will also be required to monitor and report on their progress.
Two weeks ago, the Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety (ENVI) finished voting on amendments to the Nature Restoration Law. No majority for the law was present, with the vote split 44-44. Tomorrow's vote will determine whether discussions over the law will continue — or if it will be rejected entirely. Much of the opposition to the law stems from claims that it will harm agriculture, threaten livelihoods and reduce food yields. The European People's Party, which currently holds the largest number of seats in parliament, have repeatedly criticized the law, labelling it as impractical and burdensome.
However, around 6000 researchers have signed an open letter that lays out scientific evidence countering many of the opposition’s arguments, including claims that it will destroy jobs and reduce agricultural yields. Analysis reveals that investing in nature-based solutions, such as sustainable agriculture and eco-tourism, can create employment opportunities, foster green industries, and promote economic growth, especially in the long term. Overall, the Nature Restoration Law's potential benefits far outweigh its challenges. The law holds immense promise for restoring biodiversity, mitigating climate change, and safeguarding the well-being of ecosystems.
Tomorrow's vote is expected to be tight, with the bill needing to win majority support in order to survive. If this is achieved, the Parliament can initiate trialogue talks. The Nature Restoration Law represents a vital turning point in humanity's relationship with the environment and a way to reach targets previously laid out by the United Nations. By recognizing the urgency of restoring our planet's ecosystems, enacting this legislation can pave the way for a brighter, greener future.