In February, the European Parliament will vote on the inter-institutional agreement for the new EU Nature Restoration Law. The world's first law to restore ecosystems is a crucial step in the fight against species extinction in Europe. Biodiversity is our survival insurance. Without intact ecosystems, there will be no drinking water, no clean air, no fertile soils. The Nature Restoration Law has the potential to set global standards in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crisis. As an important part of the Green Deal, the EU Nature Restoration Law could halt the extinction of species and give ecosystems room to breathe again.
Nature is not doing well. Over 81 per cent of protected ecosystems in Europe are not in good condition. 50 per cent of breeding pairs of farmland birds have disappeared since 1980, and in the last 30 years, we have lost 75 per cent of insect biomass. Bumblebees, skylarks, wheatears: our meadows and fields are becoming increasingly quiet. The ecosystems that are still intact are slowly but surely disintegrating because we are dissecting them with motorways or putting them under pressure through intensive farming. With the ecosystem service of pollination alone, insects ensure 12 per cent of the average annual profit of the EU agricultural sector, and bees are involved in the pollination of 80 per cent of our food crops in Germany alone. They are therefore a true guarantor of our food security.
Last year at the World Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, the EU committed to the protection of 30 per cent of land and sea areas and the restoration of 30 per cent of destroyed ecosystems. The Nature Restoration Law will help deliver on these promises. It will set restoration measures for 20 per cent of the EU's land and 20 per cent of its sea areas by 2030. Moreover, restored areas shall not further deteriorate. European rivers are full of unnecessary barriers. To ensure free-flowing waters, the Nature Restoration Law sets the target of the removal of obsolete barriers on at last 25,000 kilometres of rivers until 2030. With regard to pollinators, Member States will need to install appropriate and effective measures to halt the decline in diversity by 2030 and achieve an upward trend in pollinator populations, with annual monitoring and assessment every six years until a satisfactory level is reached.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that 30 - 50 per cent of carbon-rich ecosystems must be restored in order to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. Although peatlands only cover three per cent of the world’s land surface, they store twice as much carbon as is stored in all forests. The new EU Nature Restoration Law sets targets for the rewetting of peatlands until 2050 and the transition of tree plantations to lively forests. Carbon-rich ecosystems are our natural allies in the fight against the climate crisis and will help deliver on the EU’s climate goals.
The new Nature Restoration Law alone will not be able to stop the extinction of species or save nature. The European Union is merely providing the foundation, but it will be up to the Member States to implement the requirements. It will be a vote on our livelihood - nothing more and nothing less.