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Nature Restoration Law one step closer to becoming reality – but with loopholes

Intense trilogue negotiations concluded tonight

Late Thursday night, the intense negotiations between the EU Parliament, Commission, and Council concluded on the eagerly awaited Nature Restoration Law, resulting in a political agreement between the three institutions. 
While we are pleased to see that all ecosystems originally covered by the law are still included in the agreement, the articles have been watered down compared to the original Commission’s proposal and the Council’s position. It is disappointing to see the many exemptions included, and the excessive flexibility regarding obligations for Member States.  
Below follows our initial reaction to the main components of the agreement:
  • The scope of terrestrial restoration has not been restricted to Natura 2000 sites exclusively, but significant loopholes were added which can decrease the total area to be restored.  
  • The requirement to prevent deterioration has been severely undermined, making it difficult to implement. 
  • Fortunately, concrete requirements to increase nature on farmlands, as well as restore peatlands made it into this agreement, but the reintroduction of the article came at a high cost, with significant concessions being made, such as introducing the possibility to pause the implementation of the legislation – also referred to as the ‘emergency brake’.

The so-called trilogue negotiations are reported to have been challenging as the Council and Commission worked to find common ground with Parliament’s significantly weaker position.  
The law, initially designed to implement measures aimed at restoring a minimum of 20% of the EU’s nature on land, rivers, and seas by 2030, unexpectedly became the target of an aggressive disinformation and scaremongering campaign led by Manfred Weber’s EPP group, aiming to prevent this law from ever seeing the light of day. As a result, numerous targets were watered down when the Parliament's position was adopted. Many compromises and concessions were made to accommodate all parties involved, with the expectation of gaining support even from the most conservative factions. 
The call for an impactful Nature Restoration Law received unprecedented support from over one million citizens, businesses, scientists, and multiple other stakeholders [1].  
The agreement reached must now be endorsed by Member States, as well as undergo a crucial vote by the EU Parliament’s Environment committee, later this year, where conservative groups may attempt to torpedo the law once again.  
If the proposal successfully navigates these steps, it will subsequently go through a final rubber-stamp vote during the Parliament’s plenary vote, expected to take place in February 2024. 
We now call on Member States and the EU Parliament to approve this trilogue agreement, and not delay the much-needed restoration work that will help the EU fight the climate and nature crisis.

Sabien Leemans, Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office: “While this deal is more ambitious than the weak Parliament position, it is still a far cry from what science tells us is necessary to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies. Yet, given the fierce opposition to the law, we are relieved that an agreement was reached. Without this, the EU’s international credibility would have suffered severely. There is hope now that the EU will make concerted efforts to bring nature back, for the sake of biodiversity, people and our climate - it's the best chance we have.” 

[1] The Nature Restoration Law has received support from EU Member States, the wind energy and solar industry, scientists, the progressive farming community, European hunters, financial institutions, European mayors, an increasing number of companies and business associations and European youth. Almost 1,200,000 signatures and messages for an ambitious Nature Restoration Law have been collected through various campaigns, which were launched by the #RestoreNature coalition (incl. Avaaz), WeMove, etc. 
Nature Restoration Law

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