EU reaches provisional agreement on nature restoration regulation
Finland’s targets concerning national flexibilities accepted at the last minute. The outcome requires a thorough analysis.
The European Union Member States, European Parliament and Commission reached a provisional agreement on the Regulation on nature restoration (EU Nature Restoration Law) on 9 November 2023. The aim is to improve a broad range of ecosystems in different kinds of environments, both in protected areas and outside these.
The regulation introduced binding targets and obligations to improve the status of ecosystems in different kinds of habitats. The measures should cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. The types of ecosystems covered by the Regulation include mires, wetlands, meadows, waters, forests and agricultural and urban environments.
In Finland restoration measures are already taken to strengthen biodiversity in many different types of habitats, including under the Helmi Habitats Programme, through the Programme on More Efficient Water Protection, and in the NOUSU Migratory Fish Programme that aims to remove barriers to migration. Because of the new Regulation, the adequacy and targeting of the current measures will have to be reassessed.
The Regulation also requires that the use of areas for economic purposes must be coordinated with the targets set for different kinds of habitats. This can have impacts on environmental measures in agriculture and nature management related to forestry. In addition, greening of urban environments is also required for protecting against heat, preventing floods and increasing biodiversity.
The European Commission gave a proposal for a Regulation on nature restoration in June 2022. The proposed Regulation is part of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, which aims to halt the loss of biodiversity and reverse the negative trend of biodiversity by 2030.
Finland active in the process - outcome requires thorough analysis
During the whole negotiation process, Finland has worked hard to influence the content of the Regulation, in close cooperation with many other Member States. In June Finland did not support the Commission’s general approach because Finland considered that the implementation of the Regulation as stated in the general approach would still cause excessive costs for the country. Finland continued the efforts to influence the process at all levels during the summer and autumn.
“There is no doubt that halting biodiversity loss is an absolute necessity. However, the costs resulting from the proposed Regulation for Finland are higher than those for most other Member States. The outcome of the negotiations is more reasonable for us than the Commission's proposal, but a thorough analysis is still needed,” says Minister of Climate and the Environment Kai Mykkänen.
Now the different circumstances of Member States are better taken into account in the targets. National leeway and flexibilities have been included in the restoration targets for habitat types. The obligation concerning the greening of urban ecosystems now takes into account the fact that the Finnish urban areas are already quite green. Flexibilities have also been added to the preparation of national restoration plans and to monitoring and reporting. The non-deterioration requirement is also now more flexible and possibilities to derogate from the requirement have been increased, especially with respect to renewable energy and national defence.
Next, the common understanding reached in the trilogue between the Commission, Council and Parliament must still be formally adopted by the Parliament and Council. The adoption process and technical procedures will take time, which means that the Regulation could enter into force in mid-2024.
Within two years from the entry into force of the Regulation, each Member State should submit the national restoration plan to the Commission. The plans must set knowledge-based targets for the indicators specified in the Regulation and list the means to achieve the targets. The Member States can choose the measures to reach the targets, which means that they can also influence the costs that will arise from the implementation.
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