The European Parliament approved the Nature Restoration Law on July 12th. The law proposal requires European countries to implement measures to restore at least 20% of damaged land and marine ecosystems by 2030, contributing to reducing the loss of biodiversity and addressing climate change. The final text is expected before the end of the year, barring unforeseen circumstances.

From 1980 to today, in Europe, the loss of biodiversity has seen around 600 species of birds disappear and only 15% of habitats are considered in good condition. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) will help restore damaged areas and would ambitiously lead Europe to maintain the targets set by the Green New Deal and the European Strategy for Biodiversity. Agriculture will also have the opportunity to be more sustainable, as the proposal would increase high diversity soils, there would be the possibility of having long-term food security, it would help mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis on food production and it would encourage the presence of pollinators and populations of insects and birds in ecosystems. Furthermore, the Nature Restoration Law would be able to restore ancient forests and wood reserves which are essential for absorbing CO2 and restoring the correct health of the soil to its original conditions.

The proposal was approved in the European Parliament (336 in favour, 300 against and 13 abstentions) after a tortuous process and, according to some, with less ambitious objectives. The most conservative parties were against its adoption, led by the European People’s Party (EPP), a centre-right party, which from the beginning tried to suppress the proposal, arguing that the NRL would destroy the lives of farmers and put at risk food safety.

Supporting it, however, are the green groups and left-wing MEPs, also supported by various civil society groups and private entities. More than 200 Non-Governmental Organisations, 6000 scientists, companies (including Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Unilever), farmers, fishermen, cities and young people, have come forward underlining the commitments made by the European Union under the Paris Agreement, at COP15 on biodiversity and with the European Green New Deal itself. Also exposed were Italian entities such as the LIPU (Italian League for Bird Protection) and the Italian section of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), which tried to push MEPs to vote in favor of this law.

Now the text approved by the Parliament will be discussed with the Council of the European Union, a body in which the 27 Member States are represented. The final text is expected before the end of the year, as reiterated by the Spanish Presidency of the Council, barring changes in direction due to the ongoing national elections. In particular, with the current text, the Parliament is asking to:

remove binding numerical targets for the restoration of agricultural ecosystems, including the restoration of 30% of peatlands (mitigation measure recognized by the IPCC);

reduce the goal of restoring 25,000 kilometers of free-flowing rivers by 2030 down to 20,000 kilometers;

weaken the specific goals for the restoration of terrestrial, coastal and freshwater ecosystems by eliminating the intermediate goals for 2030, 2040 and 2050.

This means that the Parliament, unlike usual, comes to negotiations with the Council with ideas on green policies that are less harsh than in the European Union countries. If anything, in this sense, the negotiations should proceed quite quickly, even if the final outcome is not guaranteed.

Despite the changes to the requests, the NRL still remains an ambitious and necessary law in this historical and climatic period.

Article by Aurora Audino and Giorgia Ivan, Italian Climate Network Volunteers

Cover photo: by Aurora Audino

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