Let's bring back nature: from legally binding targets to empowerment on the ground

9 February 2023
Let's bring back nature: from legally binding targets to empowerment on the ground

It’s nature o’clock! But also for the climate, people, and the economy.

We have reached a point of no return. Scientists were already saying this before the biggest health crisis of our time, when a pandemic was possibly triggered, but certainly influenced, by the breakup of an equilibrium that was getting more and more fragile.

"We need to restore habitats and ecosystems. 🌳🌿

The @eu_cor will support the #EUGreenDeal with urban greening, nature based solutions, supporting the #Farm2Fork initiative and awareness raising with citizens."@BiwerR #CoRPlenary pic.twitter.com/notHEw1V2p

— PES Group Committee of the Regions (@PES_CoR) October 12, 2020

Besides COVID-19, the EU has faced and continues to deal with environmental challenges of unprecedented magnitude and urgency. The IPBES report, the IPCC reports and many other studies show that, despite efforts at European and international level, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation continue at an alarming rate worldwide.

The EU has legal frameworks, strategies and action plans to protect nature and restore habitats and species; notwithstanding this, protection has been incomplete, restoration has been small-scale, and implementation and enforcement of the legislation has been by far insufficient. With over 80% of EU habitats having poor or bad conservation status, European biodiversity is currently in an alarming decline. Numerous habitats and species are under pressure because of intensive agriculture, overfishing, pollution and climate change. While protecting the remaining nature is crucial, it is no longer enough to halt biodiversity loss in Europe and large-scale nature restoration has become a must.

The 'homework' is not just before the COP 15. We need to work constantly.

Deforestation is a real problem. And monitoring it is an issue as well.
We need rules not only for deforestation, but also for nature restoration. Wil the Commission learn from the past?

— S&D Group (@TheProgressives) July 5, 2022


The game has changed

The two-year lockdown woke us up from a slothful sleep and we have finally decided to change the paradigm.

The European Commission's proposal for an EU Nature Restoration Law adopted on 22 June 2022 sets, for the first time, legally binding targets. The proposed regulation would establish a framework to oblige Member States to develop restoration measures to cover, by 2030, at least 20% of the EU's land area and at least 20% of the EU's sea area, and, by 2050, all ecosystems in need of restoration, striving to be aligned with the Kunning-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

This objective follows the historic result of the COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal.

Historic deal #ForNature at #CoP15!

Today, the 🇪🇺 & 195 countries reached the Kunming-Montreal 🌍 Biodiversity Agreement, with targets to
🎯Restore 30% degraded ecosystems
🎯Protect 30% of land & sea
🎯Stop the extinction of species
& more: https://t.co/RKvCgNn1bC#ForOurPlanet pic.twitter.com/XBPgcq0cpH

— EU Environment (@EU_ENV) December 19, 2022

Progressive forces at all levels of government welcome this commitment and are fighting to make it a reality.

La oposición a la Ley de Restauración de la Naturaleza dentro y fuera del #ParlamentoEuropeo🇪🇺 va a hacer muy difícil la negociación. Sin embargo, el peligro no está en objetivos concretos de este texto,¡ sino en acabar sin reglamento!
Dentro vídeo con mi intervención completa👇 pic.twitter.com/bIeYSh9QIm

— César Luena / ❤️🇪🇺 (@cesarluena) January 24, 2023

Our member Roby Biwer, member of Bettembourg Municipal Council in Luxembourg, is the Committee of the Regions' rapporteur for an opinion that has been adopted at this week's plenary session.


🗣️🌍 We must step up efforts to protect and restore the world's forests to meet our climate targets!

Our member @BiwerR, @EU_CoR rapporteur of the opinion on EU Nature Restoration Law agreed with @cesarluena on the pressing need to halt deforestation & protect our biodiversity. https://t.co/dAeK8pnPmk

— PES Group Committee of the Regions (@PES_CoR) January 10, 2023


Shaping an ambitious law

He is taking forward the requests of the Committee of the Regions, particularly stressing some improvements needed if the EU wants to take effective and ambitious action:

  • The overarching restoration target should be adapted to the recent agreement on target 2 of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework;
  • The non-deterioration requirement should not come at the expense of ongoing projects that contribute to other transition-related challenges, such as the energy transition, digitalisation, food security and making infrastructure more sustainable, but environmental reasons should be prioritised;
  • It should be clarified that the target of increasing urban green space is formulated in a misleading way; it must be clear that the target is set relative to the total national area covered by local administrative units;
  • When looking at the removal of obsolete barriers on surface waters by Member States, the ecological benefits of these actions should be considered;
  • Policy integration and coherence. Inconsistencies and conflicting interests with other existing EU nature and water protection obligations must be overcome because they may jeopardise the successful implementation of this Regulation. It's important to be aware of the link between restoration measures, especially at the local level, and climate change action. 

🇪🇺 #NatureRestoration Law

“We are changing the paradigm! 👏
New binding targets for the coming years for Member States and sanctions if they do not implement them.

At #COP15 on biodiversity, we will push for this approach to be replicated globally.”

🗨️ @BiwerR #ForNature pic.twitter.com/iW2vqZdkbm

— PES Group Committee of the Regions (@PES_CoR) December 9, 2022


Unlocking cities and regions’ potential

Besides making the restoration targets more effective, the proposal must support as much as possible the real implementers of this upcoming law: local and regional authorities.

As they are the ones translating this future law into action, it is crucial to involve cities and regions in the drafting, monitoring, implementation and evaluation of the national restoration plans.

They need technical support and capacity-building. The effective design, execution and monitoring of restoration measures will require considerable technical expertise and investment of resources on their part. To date, this has been lacking, so this gap must be filled, either internally, by pooling resources between cities and regions of neighbouring territories, or by outsourcing.

In addition, regions and cities must be given proper financial resources for restoration, which means more targeted funding and easier access to it.


Progressive cities and regions leading by example

  • While there is clearly a need for greater empowerment and practical tools, cities and regions are already implementing initiatives to restore areas under their remit, in order to preserve the environment, safeguard people's health, and promote economic growth.
  • Progressive cities and regions are leading by example, as evidenced by the Committee's map of ​​Green Deal Going Local good practices.
  • Some of the many examples include:
  • Milan, with Arianna Censi, local councillor in charge of mobility, for resilient regions: service providing support for collaborative design geared towards change adaptation.
  • La Rioja, with its president Concha Andreu, agreed to carry out a plan of measures focused on improving the resilience of the Ebro river system.
  • The Autonomous Community of Extremadura, with its president Guillermo Fernandez Vara, has drawn up a regional framework for the promotion of the green and circular economy in Extremadura, which establishes a roadmap towards a green and circular economy model in the region.
  • Võru, with Juri Gotmans, member of the local assembly of Võru City Council, is moving towards the goal of being a great place to live by adopting an innovative approach to urban landscaping and planning aimed at ensuring that the natural environment in the city becomes increasingly biodiverse.
  • The Region of Tuscany, led by Eugenio Giani, has started a process to identify ways to tackle the problem, in particular with its "Fishing for litter" initiative, proposing the launch of an experimental project concerning the Tuscan archipelago.
  • The Brussels-Capital Region, with Rudi Vervoort, its Governmental Minister-President, has developed a regional plan for sustainable development, identifying the canal area as the largest strategic development hub. 

The EU's green transition is one of the priorities of the PES Group. It can be achieved through ambitious shared political will and the support of local and regional governments when it comes to implementation. This should also mean taking into account the specific features of EU's regions and cities, bringing the necessary support and knowledge.

This is our request for an inclusive and effective EU Nature Restoration Law.


© Photo credits: Freepik