What role does the EU play in nature restoration?

Europe’s habitats are continuing to be destroyed, and ecosystem degradation is becoming a major issue across Europe. The call for nature restoration is growing and the demand for change is on everyone’s mind. Restoration can have a massive impact on the future of Europe, creating benefits for biodiversity, by improving upland forests and water retention for climate adaptation. Moreover, restoration can play a major role in economic and social development as more jobs will be created in the realm of sustainable development. 

The European Commission released its Biodiversity Strategy 2030. The strategy is a comprehensive, ambitious, and long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems. The initiative by the EU will benefit people, the climate, and the planet. This was welcomed by many but it needed to be stronger with members of the Parliament calling for legal instruments to be set to aid its implementation. The commission answered these calls and put forward a proposal for binding EU nature restoration targets in 2021. The Council of the EU and the European Parliament are planning to review the proposal in a co-decision process in 2022.

The commission has proposed to capture and store carbon, prevent the impact of natural disasters throughout Europe, create and deliver further developments to help areas such as soil health, and improve the monitoring of ecosystems. These proposed steps taken by the commission are encouraging and will be welcomed by everyone fighting for the restoration.

The European Commission released on the 11th of January 2021 an online consultation on the development of their legally binding EU Nature Restoration targets, set up to hear stakeholders’ views. Feedback left by a large number of EU citizens and organisations across Europe welcoming the efforts being made but also highlighting the need for more to be done to reach the targets faster.

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The benefits on climate change

As mentioned briefly above, the benefits of the restoration can be seen in several areas but those it will have to climate change are numerous. To stay below a 1.5°C rise in average global temperature, we need a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions but you may ask how will we achieve this with the restoration. Well, forests store a massive amount of carbon dioxide but also forest degradation accounts for as much as 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, if a change is made to decrease the degradation and improve the restoration of the forests, progress will be made in carbon dioxide removal and storage ultimately improving the impacts of climate change.

Continuing on the reduction of greenhouse gases, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that restoring peatlands can play a major role in the benefit of climate change. Peatlands may be harsh environments but they store a vast amount of carbon dioxide that if treated correctly can improve the impacts of climate change. The WWF calls for large-scale restoration of the peatlands as they believe it will carry not just immense benefits for our climate but also for our natural environment.

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Biodiversity strategy for 2030. [online] Available at: <https://ec.europa.eu/environment/strategy/biodiversity-strategy-2030_en> [Accessed 15 Nov. 2021].

EU nature restoration targets. [online] Available at: <https://ec.europa.eu/environment/strategy/biodiversity-strategy-2030/eu-nature-restoration-targets_en#ecl-inpage-333> [Accessed 14 Nov. 2021].

World Wildlife Foundation, 2021. European Parliament boosts nature restoration and protection, including forests. [online] WWF. Available at: <https://www.wwf.eu/?3689316/European-Parliament-boosts-nature-restoration-and-protection-including-forests> [Accessed 15 Nov. 2021].

World Wildlife Foundation, 2021. Nature restoration. [online] WWF. Available at: <https://www.wwf.eu/what_we_do/biodiversity/nature_restoration/> [Accessed 15 Nov. 2021].

SER Europe, 2021. Scientists in Support for an Ambitious EU Nature Restoration Law. [online] SER Europe Chapter. Available at: <https://chapter.ser.org/europe/declaration-on-eu-restoration-law/> [Accessed 15 Nov. 2021].

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