EU approves Nature Restoration Law after months in limbo

17 Jun 2024

Image: © Jim Cumming/

This law aims to restore 20pc of EU habitats and species by 2030, but was watered down earlier this year in response to lobbying pressure.

Despite a period of setbacks and fierce opposition, the EU’s Nature Restoration Law has finally been approved by the European Environment Council today (17 June).

This landmark – but watered down – law aims to restore at least 20pc of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030. It also seeks to restore all ecosystems by 2050. The heavily debated regulation has gone through several rounds of negotiations since it was proposed in 2022.

The law passed a vote in the European Parliament in February, but this was followed by a period of turmoil after multiple countries withdrew their support. A law needs support from representatives of 65pc of the EU population to pass, but the Nature Restoration Law had about roughly 64pc by the start of April, which caused it to be postponed.

But thanks to a change of mind by Austria, the law was finally approved by the EU Environmental Council at a meeting today, which was attended by Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan, TD.

“I’m proud of the work we did in bringing it back to the Council today, when many thought it was dead,” Ryan said on X. “It has been restored in the same way nature will when we give it the right resources and space.”

What will the Nature Restoration Law do?

The new law will put an obligation on EU countries to restore at least 30pc of habitats that are in poor condition by 2030, with this figure rising to 60pc by 2040 and 90pc by 2050. There are various targets, such as reversing the decline of pollinating insects, protecting green spaces in urban locations and removing barriers that prevent the connectivity of rivers.

Earlier this year, European commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius described this law as a “crucial tool” to meet the binding targets in the broader EU Climate Law and that losing it would discard an “indispensable instrument that can help us become more resilient towards the devastating effects of climate change”.

Many climate experts and organisations warn that there is an urgent need for legislation to protect biodiversity. There are reports that as many as 2m species are under threat of extinction, while a 2020 report warned that roughly 80pc of the European habitats are in poor shape.

Recent reports say global heating is increasing at the fastest rate since records began and there is only a short amount of time for humanity to avoid dangerous consequences of the climate crisis. These growing temperatures are having a dramatic impact on land and marine life.

Why was the Nature Restoration Law in deadlock?

The concerns around this law were largely around potential impacts to the farming, fishing and forestry sectors, which also contributed to the law being watered down before the February vote.

For example, the rewetting of peatlands is to be voluntary for farmers and private landowners under this law, with state-owned land providing the bulk of rewetted areas. Provisions for agricultural ecosystems can also be temporarily suspended if they severely reduce the land needed for sufficient food production.

Some countries have also taken issue with implementation costs, according to Euronews.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic