EU environment ministers vote to pass legislation to restore damaged nature

By Cate McCurry, PA

Environment ministers across the EU have voted to pass legislation to restore damaged nature and ecosystems.

The European Parliament passed the Nature Restoration Law following months of fraught negotiations between some EU countries.

The legislation is a key part of the EU’s European Green Deal, which seeks to establish the world’s most ambitious climate and biodiversity targets and make the bloc the global point of reference on climate issues.

The plans proposed by the European Commission set binding restoration targets for specific habitats and species, with the aim by 2030 to restore at least 20 per cent of land and sea areas, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

Following months of debate and disagreement, the Nature Restoration Law was signed off by European environment ministers, marking a potential turning point for Europe’s nature and its citizens.

The majority of countries voted in favour of the law, with only six countries – Italy, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden – voting against.

Austria and Slovakia, countries that had previously voiced doubts about the legislation, changed their position ahead of Monday’s meeting, allowing the law to meet the threshold of support required for it to be passed.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said it was an “historic decision”.


“I think the debate was really good. I think there was a clear sense, even those voting against, recognising that the restoration of nature is in everyone’s interest, that this provides opportunities to pay our farmers.

“This is a voluntary system but in my mind it opens up income streams so that we can pay for the restoration of nature locally, ground up, bottom up and that’s why I think everyone was so relieved.

“There was one of the longest applauses I’ve heard in a European Council because it’s a future looking, important day.”

CEO of BirdWatch Ireland Linda Lennon said: “The passing of the Nature Restoration Law marks a historic moment, a symbol that European countries are committed to facing our climate, habitat and biodiversity crises as a collective that is committed to a science-based approach.

“I’d like to extend my gratitude to everyone who has worked to get this vital piece of legislation across the line, including all of the Irish MEPs who voted it through, as well as the many BirdWatch Ireland supporters who used their voices to express their support for the Nature Restoration Law.”

Now that it has been formally approved, Ireland and other member states will be required to draft their national restoration plans and lay out in detail how they plan to reach the targets proposed.