The European Nature Restoration Law (NRL) is the first continent-wide comprehensive law to restore Europe’s degraded ecosystems on land and sea. The climate and biodiversity crisis are two sides of the same coin and we must tackle them simultaneously. Having healthy ecosystems will not only help to mitigate climate change it will also offer natural solutions to disasters such as flooding. We are now reaching a crucial stage in the NRL process, with votes happening soon from the PECH committee (on fisheries) and ENVI committee (environmental ). We will then have a plenary vote on the law which will take into account the votes and amendments from the committees involved.
There has been a lot of discussion in Ireland about the land-based targets and push back from different groups on the peat rewetting goals. There has not been as much coverage on the fisheries and marine side of the NRL, although the situation with the PECH committee is not looking very positive from a conservation outlook. Click here and scroll down to files uploaded in January to view the full PECH amendment documents.
Some of the amendments which the PECH committee have proposed significantly weaken the restoration and conservation targets originally proposed for the NRL. They suggest that the 20% restoration target for land and the 20% target for sea be scrapped and that a new 20% target be set for land and sea jointly. They also want to delay marine restoration deadlines until 2035 instead of 2030. The time to act is now and delaying goals will only ensure greater destruction of marine ecosystems.
It has also been stated that there is already enough legislation in place and there is no need for the NRL. They want to change the law to a directive so that it is not binding and member states can decide how, and whether, they want to hit the targets. This is especially worrying as Ireland’s track record of voluntarily protecting its land and sea is dismal to say the least. Ireland currently only has 8.3% of its maritime area designated as marine protected areas and these areas are not truly protected, with little to no management measures in place. The EU is currently taking Ireland to the High Court over its consistent failure at setting and hitting conservation targets.
There is a non-deterioration principle within the NRL. This means that once an area is restored, it needs to be kept in this favourable condition. Restoration of severely degraded habitats can take a lot of time and money, and it would make sense for member states to then keep that area like that instead of wasting people’s money and effort. However, one of the amendments from the PECH committee calls for the non-deterioration principle to be watered down or removed completely. The reason they have given is that a member state cannot be held accountable if climate change negatively impacts a restored area. If restoration of an area is done right and the correct management plans are put in place to ensure the area is kept in good environmental condition, then keeping it like that should not be an issue.
One good agreement coming from the PECH committee is that better implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy should be obtained. If ocean restoration is to succeed then correct management of fisheries is vital or restoration impacts will be minimal.
If the PECH committee rejects the NRL in full this would be a disaster, not only for nature but for fishing communities and coastal businesses. It will also send a negative message to the world on what the EU’s political stance is towards ocean restoration.
Take action today and sign up to the RestoreNature campaign!
This campaign will send a common letter to decision makers (which you can read before it is sent) stating that you want a strong nature restoration law. All you have to do is fill in your name and email and we will do the rest.