Benefits of nature restoration: A new series of policy briefs

IEEP and the Ecologic Institute, as part of the Think Sustainable Europe network, have prepared a series of thematic policy briefs to inform policymakers of the crucial importance of nature restoration.

In June 2022, the European Commission published its proposal for an EU law on nature restoration, with the overarching objective to implement restoration measures on at least 20% of the EU by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

Nature restoration brings many benefits for the environment and for people and is critical for the EU’s climate neutrality target.

To support and raise awareness of the ambition and aims of the proposal, IEEP and the Ecologic Institute, as part of the Think Sustainable Europe network, have prepared a series of thematic policy briefs to inform policymakers of some of the key benefits of nature restoration. These briefs are based on evidence in the Commission’s impact assessment of the proposal and research carried out by IEEP and Ecologic.

Brief 1 - Why is nature restoration critical for climate mitigation in the EU?

The significant scaling up of nature restoration is essential for the EU to meet its climate neutrality goal by 2050 and the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) land sink target. Nature restoration can reduce and avoid emissions from land, enhance the capacity of ecosystems to capture and sequester carbon in natural sinks, and can prevent future emissions by increasing ecosystem resilience. Restoring peatlands, agroecosystems and forests has the greatest potential to safeguard carbon stocks and increase sequestration.

Read the brief here

Brief 2 - Why is nature restoration critical for climate adaptation in the EU?

Nature restoration can reduce climate-change related risks by reducing human exposure to climate hazards and the vulnerability of ecosystems and biodiversity to their impacts. Nature restoration also helps to build capacity to adapt to these impacts and can in some cases reduce the frequency and intensity of climate-related risks. This policy brief highlights the many benefits of restoring ecosystems such as wetlands, rivers and floodplains, forests, urban and agricultural landscapes. Nature restoration has the potential to reduce forest fire risk, increase resilience to extreme heat and regulate micro-climates in cities, and increase ecosystem resilience to droughts and erosion.

Read the brief here

Brief 3 - How will nature restoration help fulfil EU environmental policy objectives? What are the benefits of preparing Nature Restoration Plans?

This policy brief addresses two questions:

1) how will the new nature restoration law benefit other EU policy objectives?

2) how can these benefits be strengthened through national restoration planning?

Nature restoration measures can be used to accelerate the pace of implementation of other EU laws and policies for air, climate, water, and the marine environment. In their national plans, Member States will showcase how they are planning to deliver on the targets, and how they will monitor and report on their progress.

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Brief 4 - How do the costs of implementing the Nature Restoration Law match available funding, and how can Member States mobilise funding for nature restoration?

Funding the implementation of the law is a key aspect and a point of tension in the negotiations. This policy brief addresses three questions:

1) how much will implementing the NRL cost and how much funding is available?

2) how can Member States mobilise funding for nature restoration?

3) how do the economic benefits brought by nature restoration compare to its costs?

The Commission’s impact assessment estimated that restoring 30% of habitats listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive by 2030 will cost €8.2 billion a year. EU funds have the scope to cover a large part of these funding needs, as the biodiversity spending target in the current multiannual financial framework (MFF) amounts to €16 billion a year. The level of EU funding is dependent on Member States’ ability to seize the opportunities offered by each fund and to prioritise restoration among other competing priorities in their national programmes. EU and national public funding should also be used to leverage investments from the private sector, as private sector funding is currently quite low but there is quite a lot of interest.

Read the brief here

Brief 5 - Why is nature restoration critical to sustain jobs and economic benefits from healthy ecosystem services?

Nature restoration can be seen as an economic burden, but it leads to job creation and maintains existing green jobs, particularly in local communities. A study has estimated that investing in the Natura 2000 network can support as many as 500,000 additional jobs. Restoration of natural areas creates opportunities for nature-based tourism and can also stimulate new entrepreneurial initiatives. It also brings massive economic benefits from restored and healthy ecosystem services, such as better water quality and supply, flood mitigation, soil fertility, and pollination of our food.

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Brief 6 - Why is nature restoration critical for river connectivity?

This policy brief highlights the importance of improving connectivity for healthy and biodiverse rivers that can provide ecosystem services such as water supply for human uses and for nature, and resilience to climate change impacts. The brief presents evidence and data on the decline of river connectivity due to human interventions, from river barriers to floodplain degradation, and the benefits offered by measures to restore free-flowing rivers.

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Brief 7 - Why is nature restoration critical to improving human health and well-being?

This policy brief highlights the importance of well-functioning ecosystems for ensuring human health and well-being, not least in light of climate change. Furthermore, it outlines the potential of nature restoration and specifically the law to generate healthier living environments and to mitigate diverse physical, mental and social health threats. Potential contributions include, for example, the promotion of revegetation, enhanced biodiversity, temperature regulation, stress relief, disaster risk resilience and food security.

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Brief 8 - Why is nature restoration critical for the resilience of European cities?

Healthy urban ecosystems and biodiversity are key to ensuring the resilience of European cities. This policy brief presents evidence and data to support strong targets for urban ecosystem restoration to be included in the Nature Restoration Law. The document shows the positive impact of activities such as increasing the quantity and quality of urban green spaces, ensuring a minimum canopy cover, and supporting implementation of green infrastructure and nature-based solutions on key components of urban resilience. These include improving biodiversity, reducing flood risk and heat stress, mitigating climate change, reducing air and noise pollution, and providing benefits to health and well-being.

Read the brief here

Why is nature restoration critical for food security?

IEEP has published a report on the importance of nature restoration for food security and resilient food systems. Nature restoration enhances healthy ecosystem services which support food production, including soil productivity, water supply and quality, crop pollination, control of pests and diseases, contributing to nutrient and carbon cycles, and mitigating droughts and floods. Restoration also contributes to reducing the negative impacts of extreme weather events linked to climate change.

Read the brief here

Photo by Hibiki Hosoi on Unsplash