The European Commission has proposed a new Nature Restoration Law with legally-binding targets to restore damaged ecosystems across every member state.
It is the first-ever legislation that explicitly targets the restoration of Europe's nature, and aims to repair 80% of habitats that are in poor condition, including forests, agricultural land, oceans, freshwater and urban ecosystems.
The intention is to cover at least 20% of the EU's land and sea areas by 2030 with nature restoration measures, and eventually extend these to all ecosystems in need by 2050. Around €100bn will be available for biodiversity spending, including restoration.
“Europeans are clear: they want the EU to act for nature and bring it back to their lives,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries. “Scientists are clear: there is no time to lose, the window is closing.
“Clear is also the business case: every euro spent for restoration will bring us at least eight in return. This is what this landmark proposal is about, restoring biodiversity and ecosystems so that we can live and thrive together with nature.
“It is a law for all people in Europe and for the generations to come, for a healthy planet and a healthy economy. It is a first of its kind globally, and we hope that it can inspire high international commitment for the protection of biodiversity in the upcoming COP15.”
Habitats with the greatest potential for removing and storing carbon, and preventing or reducing the impact of natural disasters, such as floods, will be the top priorities.
The targets proposed include:
- Reversing the decline of pollinator populations by 2030 and increasing their populations from there on
- No net loss of green urban spaces by 2030, a 5% increase by 2050, a minimum of 10% tree canopy cover in every European city, town, and suburb, and net gain of green space that is integrated to buildings and infrastructure
- In agricultural ecosystems, overall increase of biodiversity, and a positive trend for grassland butterflies, farmland birds, organic carbon in cropland mineral soils and high-diversity landscape features on agricultural land
- Restoration and re-wetting of drained peatlands under agricultural use and in peat extraction sites
- In forest ecosystems, overall increase of biodiversity and a positive trend for forest connectivity, deadwood, share of uneven-aged forests, forest birds and stock of organic carbon
- Restoring marine habitats such as seagrasses or sediment bottoms, and restoring the habitats of iconic marine species such as dolphins and porpoises, sharks and seabirds
- Removing river barriers so that at least 25 000km of rivers would be turned into free-flowing rivers by 2030.
The Commission has also proposed legally-binding targets at the EU and national level to reduce by 50% the use and the risk of chemical pesticides and the use of the more hazardous pesticides by 2030.
The use of all pesticides will be prohibited in places such as urban green areas, including public parks or gardens, playgrounds, schools, recreation or sports grounds, public paths and protected areas.
Executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “We have been making progress on tackling the climate crisis, and today we add two laws that represent a massive step forward in tackling the looming ecocide.
“When we restore nature, we allow it to continue providing clean air, water, and food, and we enable it to shield us from the worst of the climate crisis. Reducing pesticide use likewise helps nature recover, and protects the humans who work with these chemicals.”
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