A strong proposal for a Nature Restoration Law for EU`s damaged ecosystems

Teodor Metodiev | 24/06/2022 10:28:48 |

On 22nd June 2022, the Commission adopted pioneering proposals to restore damaged ecosystems and bring nature back across Europe, from agricultural land and seas, to forests and urban environments. Under this proposal for a Nature Restoration Law, legally binding targets for nature restoration in different ecosystems will apply to every Member State, complementing existing laws. The aim 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 of restoration by 2050.

Over half of global GDP depends on nature and the services it provides, and more than 75% of global food crop types rely on animal pollination. The degradation of nature and biodiversity has direct consequences for farmers. Today, soil degradation across the EU affects 61 to 73% of agricultural land, limiting Europe's ability to produce food in some regions. Erosion alone is causing a loss of almost 3 million tonnes of wheat and 0.6 million tonnes of maize per year. Globally, land degradation has already reduced the productivity of 23% of the land surface, with up to USD 577 billion in annual global crops at risk from pollinator loss.

Restoration is not about new protected areas. It is about living and producing together with nature by bringing more biodiversity back everywhere, including to the areas where economic activity takes place like managed forests, agricultural land and cities.

The proposal does not put any direct obligations on landowners, foresters, farmers or fishers but only on Member States. It includes targets for agricultural ecosystems, such as ensuring the recovery of pollinators and farmland bird populations, rewetting peatlands and increasing landscape features like hedgerows. This will require improvements in farming practices, with many changes closely aligning with existing targets in the EU Biodiversity and Farm to Fork Strategies.

Sustainable agriculture is vital for the maintenance of many species and habitats in biodiversity rich areas. There are many extensive agricultural practices which have multiple and significant benefits on the protection of biodiversity, ecosystem services and landscape features such as precision agriculture, organic farming, agro-ecology, agroforestry and low intensity permanent grassland.

Specific targets that focus on agricultural land include:
  • Agricultural ecosystems – increasing the grassland butterflies and farmland birds, the stock of organic carbon in cropland mineral soils, and the share of agricultural land with high-diversity landscape features; restoring 30% of drained peatlands under agricultural use by 2030; and 70% by 2050;
  • Reversing the decline of pollinator populations by 2030 and increasing their populations from there on.
In addition, with respect to agriculture, the Commission also proposes to reduce the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030. Chemical pesticides harm human health and cause biodiversity decline in agricultural areas. They contaminate the air, the water and the wider environment. The proposed new rules will reduce the environmental footprint of the EU's food system, protect the health and well-being of citizens and agricultural workers, and help mitigate the economic losses that we are already incurring due to declining soil health and pesticide-induced pollinator loss.

You can read the full press release on EC's press corner.

Photo: European Commission (EC) logo

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This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 101003476.

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