Aerial view of a lush green forest or woodland looking down on the tree tops in a full frame view

European Council Approves Nature Restoration Law

June 27, 2024
The regulation aims to restore 20% of the EU’s land and sea by 2030 and provide a launchpad for achieving long-term nature-related goals through 2050.

On 17 June 2024, the European Council formally adopted the Nature Restoration Law (the Regulation). The Regulation establishes a framework for Member States to implement measures to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030, and all ecosystems “in need of restoration” by 2050.

Background and Objectives

The Regulation was proposed by the European Commission on 22 June 2022, forming part of the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 and the wider European Green Deal package of policies.

The Regulation’s objectives include:

  • enabling the long-term recovery of nature in the EU’s land and sea areas;
  • contributing to the EU’s climate mitigation and climate adaptation objectives;
  • enhancing food security; and
  • meeting international commitments including the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed at the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15).For more information on the Global Biodiversity Framework, refer to this Latham Client Alert. One of the key targets of the Global Biodiversity Framework is to ensure that, by 2030, at least 30% of areas of degraded terrestrial, inland water, and marine and coastal ecosystems are under effective restoration.

A number of stakeholders including business groups cited concerns over implementation costs and the agricultural sector noted potential negative effects of the Regulation. The Regulation passed the Council vote with a narrow majority, with 20 countries representing 66% of the EU’s population voting in favour.The relevant threshold for approval is a qualified majority which requires 55% of Member States to vote in favour, representing at least 65% of the total EU population. The timing of the vote also meant that failure to obtain an approval at this stage would mean the Regulation would have been passed to the next EU administration.

Compared to the Commission’s original proposal, a notable change is the inclusion of an “emergency brake”, if actions aimed at protecting or restoring nature are perceived to threaten food security. In addition, by 2033, the Commission must review the Regulation’s application and its impact on sectors including agriculture, fisheries, and forestry, as well as its wider socioeconomic effect.

Requirements of the Regulation

The Regulation sets a binding target at the EU level, which will require Member States to implement “effective restoration measures” covering at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030. On habitats deemed in poor condition, Member States will take measures to restore:

  • at least 30% by 2030;
  • at least 60% by 2040; and
  • at least 90% by 2050.

As a frame of reference, prior reports have indicated that approximately 81% of habitats in the EU are currently in poor condition. Member States shall, as appropriate, give priority to restoration measures in areas located in Natura 2000 sitesNatura 2000 sites refer to a network of protected areas covering sites that are considered Europe’s most valuable, and threatened species and habitats. The sites are designated under the Birds and Habitats Directive. until 2030.

According to the Regulation, restoring nature means “assisting the recovery of degraded or destroyed ecosystems by improving their structure and functions, with the overall goal of improving resilience and biodiversity in nature.”Refer to the Council’s page on nature restoration for more background information.  Examples of restoration measures vary, but may include rewetting drained peatlands, promoting wilderness preservation, and reducing the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

The Regulation sets out a number of specific requirements for Member States covering various ecosystems, including the following:

  • Restoring 30% of drained peatlands under agricultural use by 2030, and 50% by 2050 (with some differences for heavily impacted countries)
  • Ensuring no net loss of green space in urban ecosystems by 2030 as compared to 2024 (unless the urban environment already has 45% green space)
  • Implementing measures that will improve pollinator diversity and reduce the decline of pollinator populations at the latest by 2030
  • Planting three billion trees at the EU level by 2030, to which Member States will aim to contribute

National Restoration Plans

EU countries are expected to submit National Restoration Plans to the Commission within two years after the Regulation comes into force, showing how they will deliver on the relevant targets.

The plans should cover up to 2050 (whilst also covering intermediate deadlines as set out in the Regulation) and also be aligned with other relevant legislation.

The Commission will, through implementing acts, establish a uniform format for the National Restoration Plans.

The Regulation also sets out measures to monitor and report to the Commission the relevant measures and targets.

Relation to Global Developments

The Regulation is one of several examples of growing attention from policymakers to broader ecological considerations, including overall biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, in their approach to environmental law. In particular, the upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 16) in Cali, Colombia, will have European nations join with others from around the globe, in large part to focus on efforts to implement the various goals and targets of the Global Biodiversity Framework. This is expected to include more concrete strategies to translate these aims into national-level action plans, as well as means to facilitate implementation (such as capital flows and technical best practices), which in the EU will now also need to be informed by this Regulation.

Next Steps

The Regulation will now be published in the Official Journal of the EU and enter into force after 20 days. The Regulation will become directly applicable in all Member States.This is in contrast to directives including the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, which must be transposed by Member States into national law.

Latham & Watkins will continue to monitor nature-related regulatory developments globally.


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