Nature Restoration Law: Time has come to take concrete action for Future Generations

First proposed by the European Commission in June 2022, then adopted by the European Parliament in February 2024, it is the Council of the European Union that seals the deal by passing the Nature Restoration Law.

Considered as a key proposition of the European Green Deal, the Nature Restoration Law aims to reverse decades of ecosystem degradation by putting in place measures to restore at least 20% of the European Union’s land and sea areas by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. The bill also hopes to achieve the EU’s overall climate change mitigation and adaptation objectives, and enhance food security.

An encouraging decision for future generations

The adoption of the Nature Restoration Act marks a historic moment, as it is the first time that a law provided measures not only to preserve nature, but also to restore it. 

Soon after the vote, Leonore Gewessler, the Austrian Minister for Climate Action and Energy, who cast the deciding vote expressed her satisfaction on X “Today’s decision is a victory for nature. The European Union stands united behind the protection of our livelihood. […] My conscience tells me unequivocally: When the healthy and happy lives of future generations are at stake, courageous decisions are needed. That’s why I voted in favour of this Nature Conservation Act today.”. 

This is undoubtedly another crucial step towards preserving the well-being of future generations. However, it is also another example that focuses mainly on environmental progress and not fundamentally on the inclusion of young people and future generations in the decision-making process within the European Union.

The decision was also welcomed by environmental protection groups. Špela Bandelj Ruiz, biodiversity campaigner for Greenpeace said in a press comment: “Despite the weakening of the law, this deal offers a ray of hope for Europe’s nature, future generations and the livelihoods of rural communities.”.
A coalition of organisations #RestoreNature including BirdLife, ClientEarth, European Environmental Bureau and WWF EU qualified this decision as an “a huge win for Europe’s nature, climate action, citizens and future.” and added “we are jubilant that this law is now reality – this day will go down in history as a turning point for nature and society.”.

A difficult vote

After months of blocking, the Member States of the European Union finally adopted the legislation thanks to the support of twenty of the twenty-seven Member States of the European Union. 

Against all expectations, it was Austria – and more specifically the Austrian Minister for Climate Action and Energy, Leonore Gewessler – that cast the deciding vote, having previously decided to abstain due to divisions within the governing coalition. 

This decision prompted a strong reaction from the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who deemed his minister’s vote to be “illegal” and announced that he would “lodge an action for annulment” with the European courts.

An important decision which, despite the discontent of some, shows that it is more necessary than ever for governments to include future generations in the current decision-making process, and thus to adopt a long-term vision.