What is the Nature Restoration Law?

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

In a historic move, the European Parliament has recently voted in favour of the ambitious Nature Restoration Law, aiming to reverse decades of environmental damage and restore the health of Europe's ecosystems.

The Nature Restoration Law intends 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. 

Additionally, the law aims to ensure that there is no net loss of urban green space by 2030, an additional three billion trees to be planted and that there is instead an increase in the surface area of these spaces by 2050. Member states will also have to restore at least 25,000 km of rivers into free-flowing rivers and ensure no net loss in the total national area of urban green space and urban tree canopy cover.

To ensure a holistic approach to the development and implementation of the law, a public consultation was held to invite feedback on the initial proposal, along with five stakeholder workshops to explore the social, economic and wider environmental impacts associated with the establishment of the law.

On the 27th of February 2024, the European Parliament decided to proceed with the proposal of the Nature Restoration law, despite conservative political controversy. 

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

Controversy and Balancing Acts

The recent controversy was linked to heavy criticism from the agricultural sector. Therefore, to ensure flexibility in the application of the law regarding food production, the law does allow for the suspension of targets under exceptional circumstances, if deemed to be detrimental to agricultural productivity for EU consumption.

Since a good state of farmland biodiversity is essential for the healthy functioning of agricultural systems, namely through pollination, nutrient cycling and natural pest control, among others, EU Member States will have to ensure an improvement in at least two of the following three indicators of farmland biodiversity: the grassland butterfly index; the share of agricultural land with high-diversity landscape features; the stock of organic carbon in cropland mineral soil. Measures to increase the common farmland bird index must also be taken as birds are good indicators of the overall state of biodiversity.

Benefits and future outlook

By restoring ecosystems, the law aims to enhance biodiversity leading to a nature-positive future, secure vital resources necessary for human well-being and societal development, and combat climate change through the vital role of ecosystems in sequestering carbon. 

The Nature Restoration Law will guide Member States towards healthier ecosystems, seeking a nature-positive future which will benefit biodiversity and will provide the vital resources upon which human civilisation depends. The law now goes to the European Council for final approval by member states.