Understanding the EU Nature Restoration law: which targets made the final vote

Post Date
03 August 2023
Ida Bailey
Read Time
4 minutes
  • Natural capital & ecosystem services
  • ESG advisory

After some uncertainty, the EU has now passed the EU nature restoration law. This marks a positive step towards securing the social and financial future of 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 eight to 38 Euro return in benefits.

This law will help enable our clients to justify and commit to the ambitious corporate targets for nature that many of them are already exploring in order to reduce their nature-related business risks.

With the draft nature restoration law, the EU Commission aimed to restore 20% of terrestrial and marine ecosystems by 2030, in line with cities’ delivery of their Green City Accord commitments, rising to cover all degraded ecosystems by 2050. This would contribute to reaching the EU’s international commitments, in particular those contained within the UN Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). While the nature restoration law fell short of matching the ambition of the GBF which aims to have restoration completed or underway on at least 30% of degraded terrestrial, inland waters, and coastal and marine ecosystems by 2030, it did reflect the ambitions to reduce pesticide risk by 50%.

It is, however, concerning that during final negotiations the law was severely watered down. Article 9 on the restoration of agricultural ecosystems was deleted, including the target to rewet 30% of the EU’s drained peatlands by 2030. In addition, restoration ambitions for terrestrial habitats were limited to Natura 2000 areas only, interim targets for 2030, 2040, and 2050 were removed, the obligation for EU countries to ensure terrestrial and marine ecosystems do not deteriorate was removed, the target to restore 25,000 kilometres of free-flowing rivers by 2030 was lowered to 20,000 kms, and goals for increasing green spaces and tree cover in cities were cut.

Targets proposed in the June draft of the EU nature restoration law, which did not all make the final vote, included:

  • Reversing the decline of pollinator populations by 2030 and increasing their populations from there on;
  • No net loss of green urban spaces by 2030, a 5% increase by 2050, a minimum of 10% tree canopy cover in every European city, town, and suburb, and net gain of green space that is integrated to buildings and infrastructure;
  • In agricultural ecosystems, overall increase of biodiversity, and a positive trend for grassland butterflies, farmland birds, organic carbon in cropland mineral soils and high-diversity landscape features on agricultural land;
  • Restoration and rewetting of drained peatlands under agricultural use and in peat extraction sites;
  • In forest ecosystems, overall increase of biodiversity and a positive trend for forest connectivity, deadwood, share of uneven-aged forests, forest birds and stock of organic carbon;
  • Restoring marine habitats such as seagrasses or sediment bottoms, and restoring the habitats of iconic marine species such as dolphins and porpoises, sharks and seabirds;
  • Removing river barriers so that at least 25 000 km of rivers would be turned into free-flowing rivers by 2030.

There is still reason to be hopeful that the watering down of these targets can be at least partially reversed.Negotiations are underway in the EU with the hope of achieving the final text by the end of the year after which the law will be voted on once more. There is an opportunity here for everyone to get engaged and push for these ambitious targets to be included.

Opponents of the law claim that it will have negative implications for farmers, fishermen, businesses, and jobs. 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 written in support of the law.

We can act now, with or without the law, to try to meet its unwatered down objectives or to exceed them. 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 policy and standards and in particular through rapid implementation and monitoring of the original measures. Implementation can be achieved through investment in nature positive projects, and through going beyond off-setting on development sites to create tangible benefits for nature and people over and above any statutory requirements; this can be done in a proportionate and cost-effective manner.

If you are interested in the setting of nature related targets which will benefit your business or organisation, and how you can in turn deliver more for nature and communities, then we would be delighted to speak with you and assist you with opportunities.

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