A Setback for Nature – Can the Nature Restoration Law Be Rescued? 

A Setback for Nature – Can the Nature Restoration Law Be Rescued? 

A Setback for Nature – Can the Nature Restoration Law Be Rescued?  


After months of rigorous negotiations, the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) seemed poised for implementation following the trilogue agreement on November 9th, 2023, between the European Parliament, Council, and Commission. However, recent developments have cast doubt on the future of the NRL. 


The European Parliament ratified the NRL agreement on February 27th, 2024, with a vote of 329/275/24. Yet, the law was unexpectedly removed from the agenda of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) meeting on March 22nd, 2024, and consequently from the Environment Council’s agenda on March 25th, 2024. This occurred as a result of Hungary’s last-minute shift from support to rejection, which led to a loss of the qualified majority needed for the final approval of the NRL. The Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Belgium, Finland, and Austria maintained their positions and continue to either oppose the implementation of the NRL or abstain from voting. Currently, member states that support the NRL represent only 64.05% of the population, falling short of the 65% necessary for a qualified majority. The loss of a qualified majority necessitates further negotiations and may even trigger a second reading, leaving the NRL’s future uncertain.  


Peatlands and the Nature Restoration Law 


Article 9 of the NRL, which addresses the restoration of agricultural ecosystems, including drained peatlands, was a focal point during the trilogue negotiations. Despite attempts by the conservative right-wing faction to block its integration, Article 9 was included in the final NRL agreement in November 2023, albeit in a diluted form. 


The article sets ambitious goals: restore 30% of drained peatlands by 2030, 40% by 2040, and 50% by 2050. By 2030, at least a quarter of the restored peatlands should be rewetted, with at least one third to be rewetted by 2040 and 2050. Member States can contribute to their restoration target by rewetting drained peatlands used for purposes other than agriculture or peat extraction, up to a maximum of 40% of the total restoration target. 


Before the NRL lost its majority, the text was already compromised by making restoration measures voluntary for farmers and private landowners under EU law. Moreover, Article 22a allows for the temporary suspension of restoration measures in case of an unforeseeable, exceptional, and unprovoked event that threatens EU food security, potentially undermining Article 9 further. 


Despite these challenges, the implementation of the NRL would represent a global first and a significant step towards peatland restoration in the European Union. The current setback is significant, but the fight for nature’s restoration continues.