World's first nature restoration law adopted by the European Union

The Nature Restoration Law was formally adopted by the EU Council on 17 June 2024, setting specific, legally binding targets for various ecosystems by 2030 and 2050, including coastal and marine habitats.
The European Council has adopted the first law to restore degraded ecosystems across the EU.

The European Council has adopted the first law to restore degraded ecosystems across the EU.

Photo: Frederique Delmeiren /European Parliament.

In a historic move, the Council of the European Union has today formally adopted the first-ever Nature Restoration Law, aiming to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

Today's vote marked the final hurdle for the legislation, which was negotiated in November, and endorsed in January by the European Parliament, but still needed to be formally adopted by the European Council, which requires a majority threshold of 65%.

With a number of countries indicating they would not support the law, the outcome of the vote hung in the balance until a last-minute reversal by Austria, whose Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler indicated the country would change its previous stance and vote in favour of the new law.

The new legislation was ultimately voted in by a narrow majority of 20 countries, representing 66% of the EU’s population.

The law sets specific, legally binding targets for various ecosystems, including terrestrial, marine, freshwater, and urban areas. It is due to enter into force twenty days after its adoption in the EU official journal.

The legislation is designed to mitigate climate change, combat natural disasters, and help the EU fulfill its international environmental commitments, the European Council said in a press announcement.

Marine ecosystems one of the areas targeted by the new law

Until 2030, EU member states are to prioritise restoration of sites already protected as important habitats under Europe's "Natura 2000" scheme.

The marine areas forming part of the Natura 2000 network amount to about 9% of the EU's seas - or 452,494 square kilometers of marine environments around Europe's coastline.

Under the new law, once a habitat is restored to good condition, EU countries are obliged to ensure the area does not significantly deteriorate.

Specific targets include restoring at least 30% of habitats deemed in poor condition by 2030, 60% by 2040, and 90% by 2050.

Member states must submit national restoration plans to the European Commission, outlining how they will achieve these targets, and will be required to monitor and report their progress based on EU-wide biodiversity indicators.

The regulation will now be published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force, becoming directly applicable across all member states. By 2033, the Commission says it will review the law's application and its impact on various sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, and forestry.

Nature restoration law a key part of the European "Green Deal"

The Nature Restoration Law is described a crucial component of the EU's biodiversity strategy for 2030, part of the European Green Deal, and aligns with the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed at the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15).

With over 80% of European habitats currently in poor condition, the EU says the new law marks a significant step towards reversing the decline and restoring the health of Europe’s natural environments.

"There is no time for a break in protecting our environment. Today, the Council of the EU is choosing to restore nature in Europe, thereby protecting its biodiversity and the living environment of European citizens," said Alain Maron, Minister for Climate Transition, Environment, Energy and Participatory Democracy of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, in a press statement.

"It is our duty to respond to the urgency of the collapse of biodiversity in Europe, but also to enable the European Union to meet its international commitments. The European delegation will be able to go to the next COP with its head held high," Maron added.

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