Last week, the European Parliament approved the EU Nature Restoration Law: a crucial milestone in the global fight to safeguard biodiversity. The European Commission originally proposed the law in 2022 with the aim of improving biodiversity, combating climate change, and providing benefits to EU citizens.
The law could not have arrived at a more pressing time, as more than 80% of habitats in Europe are in a poor condition. Furthermore, up to 70% of EU soils are in an unhealthy condition, and nearly two thirds of species in the EU have a bad conservation status. These poignant figures highlight the desperate need for legislation tackling the biodiversity crisis.
The law itself contains binding targets to achieve the overarching objective of 20% nature restoration in Europe by 2030. The breadth of the law is impressive, bestowing both rural and urban benefits across Europe. For example, there are measures to improve the health of forest ecosystems and restore at least 25,000km of rivers to a free flowing state by 2030. In urban settings, the goal of achieving at least 10% tree canopy cover in European cities is a welcome measure to regulate temperatures and improve air quality. Such a measure highlights how restoring nature can provide tangible benefits to local communities.
Where does the CE Bill fit in?
The EU Nature Restoration Law is a step in the right direction to achieving the global target of ‘30 by 30’ (30% nature restoration by 2030) as set out in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. However, to fulfill this crucial target, legislation protecting biodiversity must be introduced across the world—including in the UK.
In this regard, the Climate & Ecology (CE) Bill provides a necessary roadmap for the UK to meet its international climate and biodiversity obligations and protect its beautiful natural environments; from the Scottish Lochs to the New Forest.
If enshrined in law, the CE Bill would build on current environmental legislation by not only halting the decline of nature, but actively promoting its restoration—before or by 2030—to set nature on a sustainable path to recovery. Whilst the Bill has a domestic focus, it also takes responsibility for the UK’s overseas footprint, thereby promoting ecological recovery across the world.
Perhaps most importantly, the Bill seeks to bring everyone on board by including provisions for meaningful public engagement. Through these measures, the CE Bill will enable the UK to become a leader in the global fight against nature destruction. It is therefore unsurprising that the Bill has garnered support from 200 parliamentarians across the political spectrum as well as multiple local councils.
A landmark scientific assessment in 2019 found that nature is dying faster than humans have ever known. It is clear that the time to act is now. Although there are still hurdles for the EU Nature Restoration Law, its approval by the European Parliament marks a major step towards the protection of biodiversity across the continent. The UK must adopt the Climate & Ecology Bill to become a world leader in the global fight to protect our precious natural environments.
Written by Arjun Sanghera