Important nature conservation law on the brink

Brussels delivers a bitter blow: The "Nature Restoration Law," a central point of the European Green Deal vital for nature and people across Europe, remains in limbo. Despite its significance, the anticipated vote on March 25 was unexpectedly removed from the EU Environment Council's agenda.

Winter mountain landscape with slopes where only tree stumps remain.

The Nature Restoration Act provides for the creation of new measures to protect our forests. The picture shows a clear-cut in the Romanian Carpathians.

© Susanne Schmitt/EuroNatur
The Ravni na Pristavaci small hydropower plant near Uzice.

In addition, river barriers are to be removed along 25,000 kilometres of rivers by 2030.

© Amel Emric

The fate of a key component of the European Green Deal hangs in the balance as the 27 member states of the European Union failed to muster sufficient support for the Nature Restoration Law in recent votes. At the heart of the law lies the imperative to implement comprehensive measures for the restoration of ecosystems damaged or destroyed, with a target of achieving ecosystem recovery by 2050. Despite efforts, reaching the required majority of 15 member states, representing 65% of the EU population, remained elusive by a mere one percent. A subsequent vote on March 25 at the EU Environment Council also fell short of securing the necessary majority.

After a lengthy process, the vote was considered a mere formality. The European Commission, EU Parliament and European Council spent two years negotiating the law, the provisions of which had already been significantly watered down due to a change of policy by the European People's Party at the beginning of 2023. However, even this heavily watered-down compromise did not find majority in the European Council after several states voted against the law, in some cases surprisingly, or abstained. 

“The European Council and the European Parliament worked out the final version of the Nature Restoration Law together. The fact that the Council is now refusing to formally approve this compromise is incomprehensible and ultimately a scandal”, said Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur. "It means that the Council no longer feels bound by the results it negotiated a few weeks ago. This decision is not only a disaster for nature, but also for the political decision-making processes in the EU. However, we are not giving up hope and are continuing to work hard to ensure that the Council formally approves the law."

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