Understanding the new EU Nature Restoration Law

Nov 24, 2023 | Blogs, Monthly Briefing

After some uncertainty, the EU has now reached a provisional political agreement on its EU Nature Restoration Law although the deal still has to be adopted by the European Parliament and European Council, after which the new law will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later. While the final vote is not expected to take place until December 2024, this marks a positive step towards securing the social and financial future of the EU region in the face of mounting nature-related disruption and challenges. From climate change resilience to clean water and food security, nature restoration is vital. Every euro invested in restoring nature is expected to result in an €8 to €38 return in benefits.

The Nature Restoration Law will also enable companies to justify and commit to ambitious corporate targets for nature, that many of them are already exploring in order to reduce their nature-related business risks.

The law includes targets to:

  • Restore at least 20% of land and 20% of sea areas by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. EU countries must restore at least 30% of habitat types covered by the new law that are in poor condition to a good condition by 2030, increasing to 60% by 2040, and 90% by 2050.
  • For land in use by the agriculture sector, EU countries will have to put in place measures that aim to achieve, by the end of 2030 and every six years thereafter, a positive trend in two of the following three indicators:
  • For peatlands, EU countries must put in place restoration measures for organic soils in agricultural use constituting drained peatlands on at least 30% of such areas by 2030 (at least a quarter shall be rewetted), 40% by 2040 (at least one third shall be rewetted) and 50% by 2050 (at least one third shall be rewetted), but rewetting will remain voluntary for farmers and private landowners.
  • For pollinators, EU countries must also reverse the decline of pollinator populations at the latest by 2030, and achieve thereafter an increasing trend measured at least every six years.
  • For forests, EU countries will have to put in place measures with the aim to achieve a positive trend in several indicators in forest ecosystems, and 3 billion trees must be planted within the EU.
  • For rivers, at least 25,000km of rivers must be restored within the EU into free-flowing rivers.
  • For urban greenspace, EU countries shall also ensure that by 2030 there is no net loss in the total national area of urban green space, and of urban tree canopy cover in urban ecosystem areas compared to 2021. After 2030 they must increase this, with progress measured every six years.

This is in line with the EU’s international commitments, in particular those contained within the UN Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and EU cities’ delivery of their Green City Accord commitments.

Opponents of the law claim that it will have negative implications for farmers, fishermen, businesses and jobs, but this opinion is contrary to the scientific evidence, which shows that restoring nature would improve food security, help fisheries, create jobs and save money. The law also has significant backing from the business and finance sector networks, who have put on record their support for it.

In response to concerns about the law, it contains an emergency brake, so targets for agricultural ecosystems can be suspended under exceptional circumstances if they create severe EU-wide consequences for the availability of land required to secure sufficient agricultural production for EU food consumption.

We can act now, in advance of the final implementation of the law towards achieving its targets. We can demonstrate that this is practical and has positive outcomes; there is no requirement to wait for governments, although we can encourage them to catch up. We can do this through the creation of well-thought-out, science-based, corporate biodiversity policies and standards, and in particular through rapid implementation and monitoring of the original measures. Implementation can be achieved via investment in nature-positive projects, and by going beyond offsetting on development sites to create tangible benefits for nature and people above any statutory requirements; this can be done in a proportionate and cost-effective manner.

Author: Ida Bailey, Natural Capital & Nature Lead – Europe