The EU Nature Restoration Law: A Landmark for Nature Conservation and Restoration in Europe

The Nature Restoration Law intends to improve the state of at least 20% of terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030. 

July 3, 2024 - Last month, the European Council officially adopted the Nature Restoration Law, aiming to restore both terrestrial and marine ecosystems throughout the EU. This initiative will enable long-term biodiversity recovery, contribute to the EU's climate mitigation and adaptation objectives, and meet international commitments on nature conservation.

The decline and loss of European biodiversity have intensified in recent decades due to extensive habitat loss and degradation, pollution, climate change and alien species. Currently, 81% of habitats are in poor condition, and one in three bee and butterfly species are in decline, despite their vital role in wild and agricultural ecosystems.

Through the Nature Restoration Law, EU policymakers intend to improve the state of at least 20% of terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030, with the long-term goal of rehabilitating all degraded ecosystems by the middle of this century. The law comprises a variety of targets focusing on forests, wetlands and grasslands among other ecosystems in need of restoration, as well as reversing the decline of vital pollinating insects, such as bees and butterflies, by 2030. 

The Nature Restoration Law  aims to enhance biodiversity leading to a nature-positive future.

It aims to reverse the decline of pollinators by 2030, supported by widespread monitoring to track their recovery. Additionally, the law will promote an increase in grassland butterflies and farmland birds by integrating biodiverse features into agricultural lands.

The structural and functional diversity of forest ecosystems will be enhanced by ensuring the presence of standing and lying deadwood, which supports a high diversity of invertebrate life and provides roosting sites. Forest networks will be interconnected and composed of mixed stands of new and old growth to ensure habitat continuity. In urban areas, cities must guarantee no net loss of green space or tree cover by 2030, followed by an increase in these habitats to benefit both humans and biodiversity.

Marine ecosystems will also be restored, including precious seagrass habitats and flagship species such as dolphins, sharks, and seabirds. In aquatic habitats, barriers will be removed from Europe's many dammed rivers to ensure that at least 25,000 km of rivers return to their free-flowing state by 2030.

To achieve these ambitious targets, each Member State must submit National Restoration Plans to the European Commission by mid-2026, detailing how they will implement the law at the national level. They will also need to track and periodically report on their progress. The approval of this law is a significant victory for biodiversity in Europe, providing numerous benefits to humanity, including agricultural crops, clean water, and climate regulation.