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Nature restoration law

by Louise-Océane Delion, marine biologist and scientific content creator for Koraï


Introduction


Urgent and effective measures must be implemented if we are to deal effectively with the current ecological crises and the global challenges we are currently facing.


While climate change has been in the spotlight and slowly pushed onto the political agenda over the last decade, the state of biodiversity has been slower to receive the attention it deserves.


However, it is becoming increasingly clear that these two crises are intrinsically linked, and that to focus on one (climate change) without considering the other (biodiversity) is to miss the point and the opportunity to reverse the trends.


According to both the IPBES (Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity) and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), more than a million species are threatened with extinction in the near future, and at the same time, restoring ecosystems is a key part of the solution to mitigate and adapt to climate change.


The facts are clear: restoring ecosystems to solve the biodiversity and climate crises is urgent.


At the end of 2022, the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity (COP15) was held in Montreal, Canada, with representatives from 188 governments attending to draw up an ambitious plan to tackle biodiversity loss.


The Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was adopted: a concrete and ambitious plan with measures to reverse biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.


The European Union has the duty to transpose the biodiversity agreements from the GBF into European laws, which is currently being done through the Nature Restoration Law (NRL).


The NRL is the first major piece of legislation to protect and restore biodiversity in Europe in the last few decades. The fact that biodiversity is finally taking place in the political agenda is promising and suggests that real measures to reverse the collapse of biodiversity can be put in place at the political level.


But what does this law really entail? Is it really ambitious and binding for the different European governments? How will marine ecosystems be taken into account?


Dive with us as we decode this law and find out what it really means for the ocean and marine life.


A new vision for biodiversity


The European Union has put in place an ambitious, long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems: the EU Biodiversity Strategy. This strategy aims to recover Europe’s biodiversity by 2030, through specific actions and commitments such as :

  • Establishing a larger network of protected areas on land and in the ocean

  • Launching a nature restoration plan: The Nature Restoration Law.


The Nature Restoration Law has been proposed by the European Commission to restore ecosystems across the EU to enable the long-term and sustained recovery of biodiversity and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.


This law proposal covers pollinating insects, forest, urban, agricultural, river and marine ecosystems, all of which have specific restoration objectives and measures. Overall, the measures should cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and seas by 2030 and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.


Citizens and scientists raising their voice


For months, this law has been strongly debated by some policymakers. Some heated debates and opposition campaigns have been taking place, leading to important divisions within the European Parliament.


Many right-wing MEPs put forward strong arguments against the adoption of such a law: it would lead to « less land for farmers, less sea for fishermen, less activity for businesses, and fewer European products and jobs for our citizens, hurting food security and punishing producers reeling from the pandemic and energy crisis ».


On the other hand, NGOs, scientists and citizens were extremely enthusiastic and hopeful to see such an ambitious law passed at the EU level.


Faced with the opposition of many MPs and the risk of seeing this law aborted, civil society organized one of the largest mobilisations to date. Activists stood outside the Parliament and reached out to their MPs via social media and email, raising their voices to alert political leaders to take progressive and pioneering measures in favor of life on Earth.


Scientists also strongly reacted to the opposition campaign led by some MPs by publishing an open letter proving them wrong. They started as « Opponents of these new regulations argue that they will have adverse effects on farming, fisheries and society at large, suggesting that they will threaten food security and kill jobs. Those claims not only lack scientific evidence but even contradict it ».


They then provided scientific evidence to refute the opposing arguments and prove that the Nature Restoration Law is necessary and will benefit food security, fisheries, employment opportunities and innovation, as well as help us to mitigate and adapt to climate change. More than 38 references from peer-reviewed literature were provided and the letter was signed by more than 3,000 European scientists.


What it means for the restoration of marine ecosystems


Against all odds, the law passed on the 12th of July, with 336 votes for and 300 against.


After months of debate and campaigning, many NGOs are relieved and delighted that such a law has been passed. However, many of them also alert that the final text adopted falls far short of what is needed to restore Europe's ecosystems effectively and sustainably.


The ocean and its ecosystems were somewhat neglected in the law. Many amendments aimed at effectively protecting marine life and restoring marine ecosystems were not adopted, in particular some concerning fishing pressure in MPAs and fishing quotas. Even the section devoted to the restoration of marine ecosystems has seen its ambition considerably reduced, with many amendments having been withdrawn.


All is not doom and gloom, however, as one amendment (number 15) relating to the implementation of measures to restore marine ecosystems was accepted and is fairly binding on the different countries.


Each EU country must submit National Restoration Plans (NRPs) to the Commission, showing how they will deliver on the targets, monitoring and reporting their progress along the way. This specific amendment stipulates that governments that include measures to protect and restore marine ecosystems in their NRPs will be required to submit their recommendations within 12 months, failing which the European Commission will be tasked with taking emergency measures.



Conclusion


It is still difficult to know exactly where this law will lead in terms of implementing effective measures. However, all the NGOs and scientists welcome the adoption of such a law, which is a first step towards action at the European level.


Koraï applauds the adoption of the law and the way in which European citizens made their voices heard in the months leading up to the vote, as well as the MEPs who fought within the Parliament not to let this law go down the drain.


Marine ecosystems are in great need of restoration actions all over the world, and at Korai, we’ve already started doing it in Madagascar, with the biggest ambition to restore marine ecosystems in Africa.


Join us now to contribute to our efforts to bring back biodiversity in Africa’s coastal waters.

by Louise-Océane Delion



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