1 March 2024

The EU parliament adopts law to restore 20% of land and sea

The EU parliament has endorsed a novel legislation concerning the restoration of nature, aiming to achieve the restoration of a minimum of 20% of both land and sea areas within the EU by the year 2030, with the ultimate goal of restoring all ecosystems in need by 2050.

In order to meet these overarching EU objectives, member states are required to restore no less than 30% of habitats specified in the new law—from forests, grasslands, and wetlands to rivers, lakes, and coral beds—transitioning them from a degraded state to a healthy one by 2030. This percentage is to increase to 60% by 2040 and reach 90% by 2050. Until 2030, Natura 2000 areas are to be prioritized for restoration efforts. Once an area has been restored to a healthy state, member states must ensure its maintenance and prevent significant deterioration. Additionally, national restoration plans outlining strategies to achieve these targets must be adopted by member states.

Agriculture ecosystems

Regarding agricultural ecosystems, EU countries must advance in two out of three specified indicators: the grassland butterfly index, the proportion of agricultural land featuring high-diversity landscape attributes, and the amount of organic carbon in cropland mineral soil. Efforts to bolster the common farmland bird index are also mandated, given the birds' role as indicators of overall biodiversity health.

Recognizing drained peatlands as a highly effective means of emissions reduction in agriculture, EU countries must restore a minimum of 30% of drained peatlands by 2030, with at least a quarter being rewetted. This target increases to 40% by 2040 and 50% by 2050, with at least one-third being rewetted. While rewetting remains voluntary for farmers and private landowners, the law includes an emergency brake provision, allowing for the suspension of agricultural ecosystem targets in extraordinary circumstances if they jeopardize sufficient land for EU food production.

Other ecosystems

Furthermore, the legislation stipulates a positive trajectory in various indicators for forest ecosystems, along with the planting of an additional three billion trees. Member states are also tasked with restoring at least 25,000 kilometers of rivers to their natural flow state and ensuring no net loss in the total national area of urban green spaces and tree canopy cover.