Proposal for a regulation on nature restoration

In “A European Green Deal”

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Under the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission committed to put forward a proposal for legally binding EU nature restoration targets to restore degraded ecosystems.

On 19 October 2020, the Commission published its work programme for 2021. In the annexes accompanying the work programme, it announced that it would propose a new legal framework on the restoration of healthy ecosystems. The proposal, to be accompanied by an impact assessment, was foreseen for the fourth quarter of 2021.

In its resolution of 9 June 2021 on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the European Parliament strongly welcomed the commitment to draw up a legislative proposal on the EU nature restoration plan, including on binding restoration targets. It reiterated its call for a restoration target of at least 30 % of the EU’s land and seas, to be fully implemented by each Member State throughout their territory, within and outside protected areas, on the basis of biodiversity and ecosystem needs reflecting the country’s specific characteristics. Parliament stressed that in addition to an overall restoration target, the legislative proposal should include ecosystem-, habitat- and species-specific targets at the EU and Member State levels on the basis of their ecosystems, with a particular emphasis on ecosystems for the dual purposes of biodiversity restoration and climate change mitigation and adaptation. After restoration, no ecosystem degradation should be allowed. The EP requested that progress on the restoration goals be regularly assessed at both national and EU levels, including through the use of intermediate goals towards the 2030 targets.

On 22 June 2022, the European Commission tabled a proposal for a regulation on nature restoration. The proposal sets multiple binding restoration targets and obligations across a broad range of ecosystems, from forests and agricultural land to urban areas, rivers and marine habitats, complementing existing legislation. These nature restoration measures should cover at least 20 % of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. To implement the proposed regulation, Member States would be required to develop nature restoration plans, to be assessed by the Commission. The proposed nature restoration law also entails a specific objective to reverse the decline of pollinator populations by 2030.

In Parliament, the proposal was referred to the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), which appointed César Luena (S&D, Spain) as rapporteur on 12 July 2022. EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius presented the text to ENVI Committee members on 30 June 2022. The Committee on Fisheries (PECH) and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) are associated Committees under Rule 57. They respectively appointed Caroline Roose (Greens/EFA, France) and Anne Sander (EPP, France) as rapporteurs.

In his draft report, published on 6 December 2022, the ENVI rapporteur proposes to increase the EU overarching restoration objective from at least 20% to 30% of the EU's land and seas by 2030, in line with Parliament's resolution on the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030. He also suggests setting higher  targets for the restoration of terrestrial, coastal, freshwater and marine ecosystems; for urban ecosystems; and for the rewetting of drained peatlands in agricultural use. Explicit reference would be made to the objectives of having 10 % of agricultural area with high-diversity landscape features; and planting at least 3 billion additional trees by 2030, both anchored in the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030.  Two new indicators would be introduced for agricultural and forest ecosystems, respectively. Rules on derogations would be clarified, and new provisions introduced regarding public information and participation in the national restoration plans. Several deadlines would be shortened to speed up procedures. The draft report would also require the Commission to reflect on the creation of a dedicated nature restoration fund. The ENVI Committee plans to consider its rapporteur's draft report at its meeting on 12 January 2023.

In the Council, work is ongoing at working party level. EU environment ministers will hold a policy debate on the proposed regulation at the Environment Council on 20 December 2022.

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Author: Vivienne Halleux, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 15/12/2022.