Late in the evening of 9 November 2023, after extensive trilogue negotiations, European Parliament, Commission, and Council reached a significant milestone for environment protection in the EU: An agreement was finally reached on the Nature Restoration Law.
The law obliges member states to define and implement measures to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030. However, this highly anticipated political agreement comes with both successes and disappointments.
Challenging trilogue negotiations
The preceding trilogue negotiations were challenging and marked by the Council and Commission striving to find common ground with the Parliament’s weaker position. Unfortunately, the draft law became a target of disinformation from conservative lawmakers, leading to many compromises and concessions to ensure support from all political groups.
Broad public support
At the same time, the call for an effective Nature Restoration Law received unprecedented support from over one million citizens, businesses, scientists, and various stakeholders. This broad support underscored the importance and urgency of the law, which is part of the EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030.
All ecosystems covered
One positive outcome of the negotiations is the retention of all ecosystems initially covered by the draft law. However, this win is overshadowed by the fact that some articles have been watered down compared to the original Commission proposal and the Council’s position. The introduction of numerous exemptions and great flexibility of Member States’ obligations are a cause for concern.
Extending land restoration—with loopholes
It is undoubtedly a positive development that the scope of land restoration has been extended beyond Natura 2000 sites. However, the addition of loopholes has the potential to reduce the total area earmarked for restoration. There are great worries that the requirement to prevent deterioration has been significantly weakened. This is a potential obstacle to effective implementation of the law.
Farmlands, peatlands, and an emergency brake
The specific demands for more nature on farmlands and the restoration of peatlands are a step forward, but the introduction of these measures came at a price. To find a compromise, significant concessions were made, including the introduction of an ‘emergency brake’ which offers the possibility of interrupting the implementation of the law for up to one year.
With the end of the trilogue negotiations, however, the legislative process is not yet over. The law now faces critical steps for endorsement by member states in the Council and a vote by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. A final vote is expected during the Parliament’s plenary session in December 2023. There is still a small risk that conservative groups may attempt to derail the law once again during this stage. If the law successfully navigates these hurdles, it will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.
Restoring nature for animals and people thriving together
IFAW believes that species conservation and protection and restoration of wildlife habitats and critical ecosystems are among the most effective and economical options for mitigating climate change. The effective implementation of the Nature Restoration Law will demonstrate the EU’s leadership in delivering on commitments of multilateral environmental agreements, like the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.
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