March 26, 2024

Targets to Restore Nature Potentially on Hold

Angela Kenny

The EU’s Nature Restoration Law, which aims to introduce binding targets for the restoration and protection of ecosystems across Europe, was dealt a serious blow yesterday when EU environment ministers decided to delay a vote on the law due to lack of support.  Details of the law had been agreed by the European Parliament in February and this vote by the EU Council was expected to see the law adopted. The outcome is now far from certain.

The law was set to introduce legally binding targets to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 (with percentages increasing over time up to 2050.) The need for such targets is a recognition that nature and biodiversity protections in the EU are currently insufficient. Currently 81% of habitats and 63% of species covered under the EU Habitats Directive are deemed to be of unfavourable conservation status. (

Globally our food system is the second biggest contributor to climate change after the energy industry and is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss, freshwater pollution, the collapse of aquatic wildlife, deforestation and drought. It is responsible for 34% of global greenhouse gas emissions. FoodCloud has long drawn attention to the fact that our food system is broken and that we need to actively work to create a more equitable, inclusive and circular food system.

The introduction of nature restoration targets would provide a strong incentive for increased integration of nature based solutions to address the climate and biodiversity crisis we face and help to shift the agricultural sector towards more sustainable practices, ensuring both ecosystem protection and the creation and support of more sustainable food systems across the EU.  Restoring nature and biodiversity is recognised as a crucial step in the fight against climate change, increasing the resilience of landscapes to climate change impacts and providing increased carbon sequestration opportunities through rewetting of lands and restoration of aquatic ecosystems.

Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that ecosystems need more support, this proposal had faced opposition in the Parliament and was adopted with a relatively tight margin (329 votes in favour, 275 votes against and 24 abstentions). In the latest Council session, some member states, including Hungary and Italy, called for a pause in the process until after the European elections in June. It waits to be seen whether any further movement can occur with this proposal before those elections.

In reaction to the backtracking, Ireland’s Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan said, ‘It’s outrageous that the Nature Restoration Law is being held to ransom in Europe. There is no legitimate argument against restoring nature. It’s vital for climate resilience, food security and public health. Delivering it will bring huge benefits to communities, both rural and urban, with significant returns on investment. The web of life, which is breaking apart before our eyes, is too important to be treated like a political football. Ireland stands firmly in support of the Nature Restoration Law, as it has done since the start. We cannot and will not give up hope, and we will continue to fight for this vital legislation.’

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