Nature restoration law: Lead MEP pushes for more ambition

S&D lawmaker César Luena published his proposals last week on the proposed regulation, arguing in an explanatory note that it “should be strengthened while maintaining a realistic approach”.

In his draft report, Luena proposes increasing the EU-wide goal to restore 30% of land and sea area by 2030, up from 20% in the European Commission’s proposal, while  strengthening sub-targets for specific ecosystems. His draft report endorses the proposal requiring member states to restore 30% of habitats listed in annex I of the Habitats Directive by 2030, but would increase the 2030 and 2050 targets from 60% and 90% to 65% and 100% respectively.

It would also raise minimum urban tree cover from 10% in the Commission’s proposal to 15% by 2030, on the basis that most European cities already meet the former target. Half of drained peatland used in farming should be rewetted by that date, rather than 25% proposed by the Commission. That would rise to two-thirds by 2040 and 70% by 2050, compared to 50% and two-thirds in the Commission’s text.

However, Luena does not propose increasing the share of rewetted peatland under forest cover, saying it “should be addressed when the Commission assesses the implementation of this regulation and has more data on it”.

Other amendments include:

  • Requiring more connectivity between existing protected areas;

  • Increasing native species composition when assessing the improving state of forests;

  • Including a definition of ‘passive restoration’, meaning “the long-term natural recovery or re-establishment of whole ecosystems… where natural processes are left undisturbed”;

  • Including “green roofs and walls” in the definition of urban green space;

  • An increase of the total national area of urban green space within cities to at least 4% by 2040 (up from 3% in the Commission’s proposal) and 6% by 2050 (up from 5%);

  • Restricting the use of projects of overriding public interest in Natura 2000 sites to 5% of a country’s total protected area, and requiring “adequate compensatory measures”;

  • Increasing the range of barriers member states can remove to meet river restoration targets to include vertical and temporal barriers, as well as those “whose removal has a high ecological impact” even where they are not redundant;

  • A reference to contributing to the EU goal of planting three billion extra trees by 2030, while “prioritising native tree species and avoiding the use of non-native species”;

  • Draft national restoration plans to be submitted 18 months after the law’s entry into force, rather than 24 months in the Commission’s proposal; Commission recommendations within four rather than six months of receiving the drafts;

  • Reviewed national plans every eight years rather than every 10 years;

  • New provisions strengthening public participation and access to information, as well as information sharing between member states.

Sabine Leemans, senior biodiversity policy officer at WWF, told ENDS Europe the draft report “is a really good basis to start from… it all goes in the right direction”.

Leemans pointed to the 30% overall target for 2030, safeguards for marine habitat restoration, and new financing provisions as useful improvements on the Commission’s text. “We think the legal proposal should indeed prepare the ground for the establishment of a dedicated fund for nature restoration in the next MFF,” she said.

But Parliament should go further, Leemans added, by proposing a “quantified, time-bound target” for removing barriers from Europe’s rivers and more ambitious restoration targets for all peatlands, not just those on agricultural land, where restoration should mean rewetting.

Environment ministers are set to discuss their views on the Commission’s proposal at a public meeting next Monday.

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