Proposal for a regulation on nature restoration
In “A European Green Deal”
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 in the text 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 considered its rapporteur's draft report at its meeting on 12 January 2023.
Over 2 300 amendments were tabled, and 30 compromise amendments were put to the vote. In May 2023, both the AGRI and the PECH committees rejected the Commission's proposal. The ENVI committee voted on amendments to the proposed text on 15 and 27 June 2023. The final vote was a tie (44 votes in favour, 44 votes against, with no abstention), meaning that there was no majority in the committee to support the nature restoration proposal as amended. ENVI was therefore bound to table to plenary a proposal to reject the Commission's text.
The proposal for a rejection did not pass in plenary (312 votes to 324 and 12 abstentions). On 12 July, Parliament adopted its position with 336 votes in favour, 300 against and 13 abstentions. It significantly amends the substance of the proposal, taking on board many elements and flexibilities of the general approach adopted by the Council on 20 June 2023. In addition, Parliament's position deletes the proposed provisions on the restoration of agroecosystems, and specifies that the regulation should only apply when the Commission has provided robust and scientific data on the necessary conditions to guarantee long term food security. It also foresees a possibility to postpone the restoration targets in the regulation in the event of exceptional socioeconomic consequences. As regards financing, the Commission would be required, within one year of the regulation's entry into force, to assess any gap between restoration financial needs and available EU funding and look into measures to bridge such a gap, in particular through a dedicated EU instrument.
Trilogue negotiations are ongoing.
- EP legislative observatory, Procedure file on Nature restoration, 2022/0195(COD)
- European Commission, Proposal for a regulation on nature restoration, COM(2022) 304
- European Commission, Commission work programme 2021. A Union of vitality in a world of fragility, COM(2020) 690 final, with Annexes
- European Commission, Inception impact assessment on Protecting biodiversity: nature restoration targets under EU biodiversity strategy, 4 November 2020
- European Commission, EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Bringing nature back into our lives, COM(2020) 380
- European Parliament, Amendments adopted on the proposal for a regulation on nature restoration, 12 July 2023
- European Parliament, Resolution of 9 June 2021 on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030: Bringing nature back into our lives, 2020/2273(INI)
- Council, Proposal for a regulation on nature restoration - General approach, ST 10867/23
- European Economic and Social Committee, Opinion, Nature restoration targets under EU biodiversity strategy, NAT/841
- European Committee of the Regions, Opinion, EU Nature Restoration Law, CDR 4206/2022
- European Parliament, EPRS, EU nature restoration regulation. Setting binding targets for healthy ecosystems, Briefing, July 2023
- European Parliament, EPRS, Regulation on nature restoration, initial appraisal of the Commission impact assessment, December 2022
Author: Vivienne Halleux, Members' Research Service, firstname.lastname@example.org