21st June 2023
Nature makes all life on Earth. We depend on forests, rivers, oceans and soils to provide us with the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we need to irrigate our crops. Nature underpins our economy, our society and our very existence. But we also depend on nature for our health, happiness and prosperity.
Because nature is free, we often take it for granted and overexploit it. We clear forests, overfish oceans, pollute rivers and build over wetlands without taking into account the impact this will have. By failing to take care of our natural world, we are now facing a biodiversity crisis and putting our very existence at risk.
Today, we are losing nature at an unprecedented rate. Globally, one million species are threatened with extinction and the health of the ecosystems on which we depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. In Europe, wildlife is in a desperate state; over 80% of European habitats are in poor condition, with species declining at a rate of 69% over the past 60 years. However, protecting and restoring nature is a fundamental tool to tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, and in strengthening our planet’s resilience.
But the decline of the EU’s biodiversity is so advanced that the conservation and protection of the remaining nature will not be enough to halt biodiversity loss and tackle climate change. What we need, is to restore nature.
In simple terms, restoration means bringing more nature and biodiversity back across different ecosystems, from forests, peatlands and agricultural land, to freshwater, marine and urban habitats.
But restoration is more than just protecting our natural environment, it’s about helping an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed to recover.
Large-scale nature restoration not only improves biodiversity and the planet’s ability to store carbon, but it also is an investment that yields a range of benefits, such as flood protection, water retention and prevention of wildfires. All of this is crucial to make Europe more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Restoration also has significant benefits for human health and well-being and socio-economic benefits including sustainable jobs and ecotourism opportunities.
Nature restoration is therefore critical to address the biodiversity and climate crisis and build resilience. The EU has recognised the urgent need to bring nature back to Europe. That’s why in 2022, it proposed a new law to restore nature – the Nature Restoration Law.
In June 2022, the European Commission published a long-awaited proposal for the EU Nature Restoration Law. The proposal includes legally binding targets to restore 20% of biodiversity and degraded ecosystems by 2050, in particular those with the most potential to capture and store carbon.
This would be the first European-wide law to set legally binding targets to restore nature. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reverse the biodiversity and climate crises by placing the EU’s degraded nature on a path to recovery.
The Nature Restoration Law would play a crucial role in addressing biodiversity loss and tackling climate change. Restoring the EU’s degraded ecosystems will not only be crucial to the bloc’s plans to reach climate neutrality, but also in preventing and reducing the impact of natural disasters, ensuring long-term food security and the resilience of our economies.
Our lawyers are working closely with other environmental organisations, scientists and experts to influence and shape the final law. We are also part of the #RestoreNature campaign, which is pushing the European Parliament and Member States in the Council to adopt the proposed Nature Restoration Law without delay and strengthen it where needed to tackle the current biodiversity and climate crises. In recent months, the law has come under attack from political parties within the European Parliament and anti-nature lobbies, spreading disinformation to prevent a strong law to restore nature from being adopted. That is why we are calling on European decision-makers need to listen to the science and respond to the calls of businesses and civil society across Europe that want nature to come back.
Citizens can also call on their decision makers to restore nature by writing to their government and Members of the European Parliament here. Only together can we safeguard our future and the planet’s.