Final green light given to EU Nature Restoration Law

Yesterday, after what Client Earth described as a “nail-biting last discussion”, the EU Environmental Council finally adopted the Nature Restoration Law, marking the last step for this long-awaited proposal to become law.

It sets specific, legally binding targets and obligations for nature restoration in each of the listed ecosystems – from terrestrial to marine, freshwater and urban ecosystems.

The regulation aims to mitigate climate change and the effects of natural disasters. It will help the EU to fulfil its international environmental commitments, and to restore European nature.

Client Earth says that this outcome is a huge win for Europe’s nature, climate action, citizens and future. Member States followed through with their commitments and with a majority of 20 countries, representing 66.07% of the population, the law was officially endorsed, thanks to Austria’s Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler stepping up at the last minute, changing the country’s previous stance and safeguarding the law.

According to Client Earth, the law has faced one of the most tumultuous journeys in the history of EU legislation. After surviving an unprecedented and absurd disinformation campaign, aiming to destroy the NRL in the European Parliament, it faced the risk of being rejected at the very last step in the Environment Council. In the end, however, support for the law carried the day.

This is a timely outcome to present at the upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP16) later this year.

The result followed a massive public mobilisation. Over the past few years, over a million signatures and messages from citizens, repeated calls from 6000+ scientists, 100+ businesses, youth organisations, and civil society from across numerous sectors have been made to defend the law and the integrity of the EU Green Deal.

The #RestoreNature coalition (consisting of BirdLife Europe, ClientEarth, EEB and WWF EU) said, “Today’s vote is a massive victory for Europe’s nature and citizens who have been long calling for immediate action to tackle nature’s alarming decline. After years of intense campaigning and many ups and downs, we are jubilant that this law is now reality – this day will go down in history as a turning point for nature and society. Now, we need all hands on deck: Member States must properly implement this legislation without delay in their countries, in close collaboration with all involved stakeholders. At the end of the day, nature can rebounce, for the benefit of our climate, biodiversity and people.”

Commenting on the adoption of the Nature Restoration Law, Janneke de Vries, Director EU Partnerships of World Resources Institute (WRI) said, “Today marks a pivotal victory for Europe’s people, nature and climate alike. We now have a law in place to protect the environment, to underpin healthy ecosystems for our food security, to safeguard clean water, preserve our health and to protect us against extreme weather.

“Following four years of divisive political debate, the law’s passage will establish ambitious climate and biodiversity targets and position the EU as a global leader on climate issues. We must now follow up with rapid action. Much of Europe is facing biodiversity collapse and the EU must ensure it meets international commitments, including those made at the Biodiversity COP15.”

The Nature Restoration Law in more detail:

Restoring land and sea ecosystems
The new rules will help to restore degraded ecosystems across member states’ land and sea habitats, achieve the EU’s overarching objectives on climate mitigation and adaptation, and enhance food security.

The regulation requires member states to establish and implement measures to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030.

The regulation covers a range of terrestrial, coastal and freshwater, forest, agricultural and urban ecosystems, including wetlands, grasslands, forests, rivers and lakes, as well as marine ecosystems, including seagrass and sponge and coral beds.

Until 2030, member states will prioritise Natura 2000 sites when implementing the restoration measures.

On habitats deemed in poor condition, as listed in the regulation, member states will take measures to restore:

  • at least 30% by 2030
  • at least 60% by 2040
  • at least 90% by 2050

Non-deterioration efforts
Member states will make efforts to prevent significant deterioration of areas that have reached good condition thanks to restoration, and which host the terrestrial and marine habitats listed in the regulation

Protecting pollinators
In recent decades, the abundance and diversity of wild insect pollinators in Europe have declined dramatically. To address this, the regulation introduces specific requirements for measures to reverse the decline of pollinator populations by 2030 at the latest.

Ecosystem-specific measures
The regulation sets out specific requirements for different types of ecosystems, including agricultural land, forests and urban ecosystems.

Member states will put measures aiming to enhance two out of these three indicators: grassland butterflies’ population, stock of organic carbon in cropland mineral soils and share of agricultural land with high-diversity landscape features. Increasing forest birds’ population and making sure there is no net loss on urban green spaces and tree canopy cover until end of 2030 are also key measures of this new law.

Member states will put in place measures aiming to restore drained peatlands and help plant at least three billion additional trees by 2030 at the EU level. In order to turn at least 25 000 km of rivers into free-flowing rivers by 2030, member states will take measures to remove man-made barriers to the connectivity of surface waters.

National restoration plans
Under the new rules, member states must plan ahead and submit national restoration plans to the Commission, showing how they will deliver on the targets. They must also monitor and report on their progress, based on EU-wide biodiversity indicators.

Next steps
The regulation will now be published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force. It will become directly applicable in all member states.

By 2033, the Commission will review the application of the regulation and its impacts on the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors, as well as its wider socio-economic effects.

The European Commission proposed a Nature Restoration Law on 22 June 2022, under the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, which is part of the European Green Deal. Over 80% of European habitats are in poor shape. Past efforts to protect and preserve nature have not been able to reverse this worrying trend.

This is why, for the first time ever, the regulation sets out to adopt measures to not only preserve but to restore nature. The regulation will help the EU reach its international commitments, in particular the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed at the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15).

Read the Nature Restoration Law

Read the Nature Restoration Law background information


Support a practical, investable and inclusive narrative for land use.

Sign-up to receive our newsletter

Newsletter Signup
Contribute for just £2.50 per week
Skip to content