Interactions between man, climate and nature (source: WWF )
The degradation of ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity caused by anthropogenic pressure in recent decades are exposing the well-being and future of humankind on a global scale to increasing risks.
This ecological crisis, which at the European level results in 81% of protected habitats being in a poor state of conservation, is affected by and, in turn, exacerbates the impacts of climate change in a so-called negative feedback loop: on the one hand, rising temperatures and altered precipitation regimes are deepening the loss of biodiversity and accelerating the collapse of ecosystems; on the other hand, the unsustainable use and degradation of environmental resources are leading to a reduction in the capacity to absorb and store carbon in natural reservoirs (mitigation) and to a lower degree of adaptation to climate change in urban and rural settlements.
The two crises – climate and ecology – are deeply interconnected and threaten the preservation of the European economy’s natural balances, sustainability and resilience.
Indeed, businesses in all sectors – from agriculture to energy, fishing to construction, water supply to food processing – depend highly on the health of natural ecosystems and the preservation of their services.
While these are adversely affected by increasing ecological imbalances and extreme weather events affecting resource supply, productivity and operating costs, it is estimated that investments in nature restoration would bring benefits of between €8 and €38 for every euro spent (European Commission) and that nature-positive products and services could generate up to USD 10 trillion per year for businesses. This highlights the enormous potential that environmental conservation, besides being a value in itself, could provide to the global economy (World Economic Forum).
In this context of growing risk and uncertainty – environmental, social, economic and financial – ambitious policies and regulations are needed to address this multidimensional crisis systemically and jointly.
This is why the European Parliament’s favourable vote on 12 July to approve the Nature Restoration Law was an important step towards implementing the ambitious GlobalBiodiversityFramework and leading Europe to transition to an economy that recognises the interdependence of human and natural well-being.
The Nature Restoration Law is integral to the European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy. It aims to create a legislative framework necessary for the recovery and conservation of European ecosystems, in line with the Union’s climate objectives and agreements signed at the international level. The law sets as an overall target the restoration of at least 20 per cent of the EU’s land and marine areas by 2030 and of all ecosystems in need of restoration action by 2050.
This is translated into specific targets, which are legally binding on Member States, concerning:
- the increase of pollinating insect populations by 2030 (reversing the current trend of decline);
- the protection of forest ecosystems by increasing standing and ground deadwood, organic carbon stock, and mixed-age forests and improving forest connectivity and species abundance;
- improving urban ecosystems by preventing net loss (by 2030) and expanding urban green spaces;
- the increase of species and organic carbon stock in agricultural ecosystems, the rise in the share of cultivated land with high diversity landscape
- features and the restoration of drained peatlands used in agriculture;
- the restoration of habitats in marine ecosystems;
- removing barriers to river connectivity, to return at least 25,000 km of rivers to a free-flowing state by 2030;
Member states will be asked to draw up a national restoration plan outlining the projects and initiatives they intend to pursue to achieve the EU target.
Restoring the natural ecological balance of forests, rivers, wetlands, grasslands, seas, and oceans will not only help to increase biodiversity and safeguard ecosystem services – of fundamental importance for the health of humankind and the prosperity of the global economy – but will also play a key role in climate change mitigation and adaptation, helping to limit the increase in temperatures to within the IPCC’s 1.5°C threshold. This will also strengthen Europe’s resilience to natural disasters, with significant benefits for health, food security and sustainable socio-economic development of Member States.
The objectives of the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) are ambitious and unlikely to be achieved in the timeframe envisaged. Still, we believe they are necessary to give a clear vision to all sectors of the economy: nature is a fundamental element of our security and economy, and we must take care of it systematically and on the right scale. And that is why Etifor wanted to play its part in promoting NRL.
We participated in the Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership and CLG Europe’s Nature Campaign to voice our support for the law. We signed the open letter of Business for Nature – a global coalition of organisations promoting credible corporate action and innovative environmental policies – urging EU political leaders to adopt pro-nature conservation regulations on time.
Among Etifor’s key services, on the one hand, we support protected areas in improving governance and raising finance to restore degraded ecosystems. On the other, we are working with companies from all sectors of the economy to steer them towards a nature-positive path by measuring, reducing and offsetting impacts on climate, water and biodiversity.
We are also organising together with the European Commission the EU Business and Nature Summit 2023, the largest conference dedicated to creating sustainable business models that have at their core biodiversity and the protection of the natural ecosystems on which our societies depend.
We, therefore, celebrate this important achievement that will help preserve biodiversity and support European businesses in the transition to a nature-positive economy for a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable future.
A huge thank you to everyone who supported the #RestoreNature appeal. Our strong voice made an impact!