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EU Nature Restoration Law “Hollowed Out”

Negotiators from the European Parliament and Council reached an agreement on the EU Nature Restoration Law (NRL) on 9 November, pledging to restore at least 20% of land and sea areas by 2030 and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. EU member states must put in place measures to achieve a “positive trend in several indicators in forest ecosystems”, as well as planting an additional three billion trees across the block and restoring 25,000km of rivers. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned that the regulation has been watered down compared to the European Commission’s initial proposal and contains loopholes regarding obligations for member states. The requirement to prevent deterioration has been “severely undermined”, making it difficult to implement, WWF said, nonetheless welcoming firm requirements to increase nature on farmlands and restore peatlands. However, EU negotiators have agreed to an ‘emergency brake, meaning that targets for agricultural ecosystems could be suspended under “exceptional circumstances”. Ioannis Agapakis, Nature Conservation Lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “Negotiators have hollowed out the law to the point that it risks being toothless in practice and prone to abuse. The numerous exemptions and lack of legal safeguards have set a very frightening precedent for EU law-making, rather than cementing the EU at the forefront of biodiversity conservation.” The NRL must now be endorsed by member states and undergo a vote by the EU Parliament’s environment committee later this year before a final plenary vote from Parliament, expected to take place in December 2024. Within 12 months of the regulation entering into force, the Commission will be required to assess and identify restoration funding gaps and generate solutions to address them. 

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