February 26. 2024. 6:12

The Daily

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No Green Deal without nature restoration

Europe’s biodiversity is in a critical state, and an ambitious nature restoration law is needed for healthy ecosystems, food security, as well as biodiversity restoration and protection, writes Green MEP Jutta Paulus.

Nine months after the European Commission’s proposal, negotiations on the new Nature Restoration Law are finally starting.

We shadow rapporteurs in the European Parliament will set up a common position in the coming weeks, which will be voted before the summer break.

The new Nature Restoration Law must become a historic breakthrough that tackles the inseparable twin crises of global heating and species extinction alike.

The implementation of the European Green Deal is on the home stretch. Particularly initiatives related to the energy transition and to achieving climate neutrality have been or are on the verge of being finalised.

In the final year before the European elections, it must be ensured that all promised initiatives of the European Green Deal are proposed and negotiated on time.

European citizens have the right to a toxic-free, liveable nature and the preservation of their livelihoods.

Europe’s nature is in poor condition

Around a quarter of known animal and plant species are endangered, half of them critically endangered or facing extinction.

Climate crisis, land use, agriculture and pollutants are destroying animal, plant and insect habitats and driving extinction.

The state of Europe’s more fragile ecosystems is particularly worrying: 81% of habitats and 63% of animal and plant populations are in poor condition. No other continent has so little wild nature as Europe.

Without intact nature, we humans have no healthy ecosystems, no safe food and no clean water. Nevertheless, existing EU nature conservation law, such as the Habitats Directive or the Birds Directive, is regularly and in some cases systematically violated by EU member states.

The targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 have also been missed. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), not only have improvements failed to materialise but populations and habitats have continued to decline.

No food security without healthy ecosystems

Even before the new EU Nature Restoration Law was presented, it was attacked under the pretext of an alleged food crisis. Yet sustainability and diverse ecosystems are a mandatory prerequisite for our food security.

Pesticides, over-fertilised soils, insect mortality and polluted waters threaten our food security, health and environment.

More than two-thirds of agricultural land is used to grow animal feed and biofuel, and a quarter of food eventually ends up in the bin.

As shadow rapporteur, I will work in the coming weeks to ensure that the promises of the Green Deal are fulfilled. The Nature Restoration Law must become an effective tool in the fight against climate and biodiversity crises.

I am committed to restoration measures on at least 30% of land and sea areas in the EU by 2030.

The European Commission’s proposed target of 20% will not stop species extinction. The Commission’s proposal also barely addresses the restoration of peatlands and almost completely excludes forestry.

What is needed for an effective Nature Restoration Law

Europe needs a “TEN-N”, a Transnational Network for Nature Conservation, comparable to the Transnational EU Networks for Transport (TEN-T) and Energy (TEN-E).

I advocate a mandatory biotope network. In the new Restoration Law, I call for obligatory biotope connectivity. Animals, plants and ecosystems know no administrative or national borders.

Peatlands are our allies in the fight against both the climate and the biodiversity crises: all former peatlands, with the exception of residential areas, must be restored to at least 90 per cent by 2050.

As carbon reservoirs, peatlands are indispensable climate protectors. They bind one-third of terrestrial carbon. That is twice as much as all forests of the Earth put together.

Peatlands make a major contribution to biodiversity and provide a unique habitat for many plant and animal species that have become rare or even regionally extinct.

Rivers and streams are the lifelines of Europe. They must flow freely and must be protected from toxins.

According to the EU Environment Agency, European waters are deprived of their ecological function by a million barriers, such as dams and barrages.

At least 10% of these barriers are not even used anymore because neither flour is milled with water power nor wood is rafted. I stand up for Europe’s lifelines.

River barriers should be removed from at least 15% of the length of all watercourses in each member state.

The success of the European Green Deal will ultimately be measured also by the Nature Restoration Law. This new Nature Regulation is our unique chance to slow down the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis.

Healthy ecosystems are food suppliers, water providers and climate protectors at the same time. Natural river courses protect us against floods, peatlands and forest soils store carbon.