What stage are we at for the approval of the European Restoration Law?

What stage are we at for the approval of the European Restoration Law?


With a clear majority of 20 votes out of 27, last June 20th the Council of the European Union has adopted the proposed Nature Restoration Law, the European regulation on the restoration of natural habitats. For the law it was a significant step forward and a strong message to the European Parliament, which in turn will pronounce itself in the next few days: the law for the restoration of nature must be approved.

The idea of ​​a major European habitat restoration programme, the first in the history of the European community, was born in December 2019 with the package of environmental programs of the Green Deal, only to be taken up again in the context of the Biodiversity Strategy of May 2020 and published in June 2022 by the European Commission. A clear agenda, with quantitative and legally binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems and improve the overall health of EU nature, also making it more resilient to climate change. Among the objectives of the law, the restoration of at least 20% of the terrestrial and marine territory by 2030 and of all the ecosystems that need it by 2050, not limiting itself to acting on habitats and species protected by the Birds and Habitats Directives and including agricultural and urban ecosystems.

The Restoration Law is the answer not only to the pressing appeals of the scientific community on the decline of biodiversity but also to the need to offer solutions to a series of problems that are closely related to the health of ecosystems, from the conservation of natural capital to land management, from the psychophysical well-being of citizens, in more natural territories and cities, to the great issue of climate change. On the latter issue, the tools provided by the Restoration Law are relevant both in terms of the restoration or improvement of habitats capable of capturing and storing carbon (such as peat bogs and other wetlands), both under that of the increase in the resilience of territories with respect to extreme meteorological events (floods and droughts), which are increasingly frequent, or to the increase in sea level along the coasts. In short, nature-based solutions, much more solid and lasting, for what can truly be a green revolution, a cultural and practical paradigm shift, essential for the good survival of our societies.

Nevertheless, despite the benefits of the bill, ostracism against him has been very harsh to date. Interest groups linked especially to agriculture, industrial fishing and the Nordic timber industry have set up an opposition as heated as it is generic, little argued except with generic alarms on food security and the penalization of the economy. The opposite of what the approval and good implementation of the law will actually produce. This hampered and slowed down the path of the law, activating it a hostile political bloc that sees MEPs from the European People’s Party and even President Manfred Weber at the forefront, exposed in first person. Path braked but not stopped. On 15 June last, the killer proposal for the complete rejection of the law, presented by the popular voters, was rejected (with an exciting 44 all) in the Environment Commission, where a tie is equivalent to a rejection. A few days later, as mentioned, the Council of the European Union (basically the Ministers of the Environment) approved the text with a clear majority, albeit in the negotiated version, and launched the positive sprint to the final votes of the European Parliament, on 27 June again in the Environment Commission and then by mid-July in the Plenary Assembly, which will vote on the final text of the Parliament. At that point, the last phase of the approval process will start, the so-called Trilogue, i.e. the three institutions of the Union (Commission, Parliament and Council of the EU) who negotiate the final text to be adopted.

“This is a great day for European nature” the Environment Commissioner declared after the EU Council’s approval Virginijus Sinkevi?ius and the Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, who is among the very first supporters of the Restoration Law. And in fact it is like this: the nature restoration law looks like a watershed, that of a Europe that has the serious intention of changing pace and putting nature at the centre. In the meantime, a notable popular and scientific mobilization has been activated in support of the law, both in Europe with the #RestoreNature coalition and in Italy, where Lipu has informed over 6 million people and acted on politics. In this sense, the Italian position with the Minister is regrettable Piquet Fratin which ignored the appeal of 28 large environmental and social organizations and, in the EU Council, voted against the law, together with Poland, Holland, Sweden and Finland. A wrong choice, which must absolutely be reviewed in the next steps.

Giorgia Gaibani is responsible for the Natura 2000 network and for the defense of the territory of Lipu-BirdLife Italia


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