At today’s [20 June] meeting of European environment ministers in Luxembourg, Member States displayed widespread support for the EU Nature Restoration Law currently being negotiated. Ministers’ willingness to move the law forward sends a strong signal to the European Parliament, where political games have stalled negotiations. 

Importantly, Member States have committed to restore at least 20 % of EU seas by 2030, and all degraded marine ecosystems by 2050. However, they watered down provisions on protection for marine ecosystems by granting exceptions in some cases and a lack of ambition regarding soft seabed sediments 

Tatiana Nuño, Senior Marine Policy Officer at Seas At Risk, said: 

“The position taken today by EU Environment Ministers is a green light to the European Parliament that Member States are ready to match political will with the demands of citizens, businesses, scientists and civil society, all of whom are calling for EU action to restore nature. With this endorsement by the Council, we are one step closer to equipping ourselves with the tools we need to fight climate change, protect biodiversity and secure the future of Europe’s fishers.” 

Nicolas Fournier, Campaign Director for Habitat Protection at Oceana in Europe, said:

It is good news that a majority of EU Environment Ministers, including from Conservative governments, voted in favour of the Nature Restoration Law, showing they acknowledge that investing in nature is the way to ensure EU economies and jobs are resilient to the climate and the biodiversity crises. Although it weakened certain provisions of the law, the Council nevertheless endorsed the importance of having a future legally binding framework to deliver nature restoration in Europe.” 

The Nature Restoration Law represents a unique opportunity to restore and bring life back to marine ecosystems, which are essential to fight climate change and biodiversity loss. Industrialisation of Europe’s seas is accelerating rapidly, resulting in biodiversity in the ocean disappearing at an even faster pace than on land. The Nature Restoration Law is the first law in 30 years that would oblige Member States to address the dire state of nature in the EU. 

EU Environment ministers’ progressive attitude towards nature restoration puts the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament even more at odds with the mainstream position on the law. Just last week, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) defeated an EPP attempt, spearheaded by German EPP chair Manfred Weber, to kill the law in the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) committee. ENVI will finalise its vote on the law during its next meeting on 27 June, after which the law will be voted on by the whole European Parliament in Strasbourg.