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“Restoration of habitats vitally important”

Over 80% of European habitats are in poor shape. But there is hope: end of February, the European Parliament endorsed a new EU Nature Restoration law.

The regulation covers a range of terrestrial, coastal and freshwater ecosystems, including wetlands, grasslands, forests, rivers and lakes, as well as marine ecosystems, including seagrass and sponge and coral beds (listed in Annexes I and II). It requires member states to put measures in place, by 2030, to restore at least 30% of the habitats types listed in both Annexes that are in poor condition. Member states must also establish measures to restore at least 60% of habitats in poor condition by 2040 and at least 90% by 2050.

EASAC Environment Director Prof. Thomas Elmqvist welcomes the new law: “The EU Nature Restoration Regulation is an important step in the right direction to address the severe biodiversity and climate challenges Europe faces. However, in the long run restoration is also of vital importance for the well-being and sustenance of farmers and land managers since functioning ecosystems are the foundation of farming and other economic activities in agricultural and forested landscapes (see EASAC report Regenerative agriculture). Further, it will be extremely important to have all local stakeholders on board and active in the implementation, making sure that a holistic systems perspective is guiding restoration activities, including food safety and food security.”

Emergency break for food security

Once in a good condition, EU countries shall ensure an area does not significantly deteriorate. Member states will also have to adopt national restoration plans detailing how they intend to achieve these targets. However, the text also introduces a possibility to suspend the implementation of provisions related to agricultural ecosystems for up to one year, in the event of unforeseeable and exceptional events outside of the EU’s control and with severe EU-wide consequences for food security. Says Elmqvist: “This provision will be open to many interpretations but may also provide farmers with some assurance that their voice will be listened to.”

After the vote, the European Parliament’s rapporteur César Luena, explicitly thanked scientists “for providing the scientific evidence and fighting climate denial and young people for reminding us that there is no planet B, nor plan B.”

The deal agreed with member states was adopted with 329 votes in favour, 275 against and 24 abstentions in the European Parliament. The next and final step will be the Council's endorsement of the text, before being published in the EU Official Journal and entering into force 20 days later.

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