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A strong Nature Restoration Law is crucial to our future

Science clearly shows that natural habitats are declining rapidly, both globally and within Europe. The implications go far beyond the environmental issues. 

Most of the soils in the EU today are in poor conditions and still degrading, making them less productive and more dependent on chemicals. Similarly, cities are becoming increasingly unviable to citizens living in them. Such conditions put our lives, well-being and future prosperity at grave risk.

Scientists see a strong link between restoring nature and protecting our futures - future health, food security, and business viability. That is why last June, more than 6,000 scientists signed an open letter in support of a strong Nature Restoration Law. 

A strong law is a sensible choice for farming, business, and families. But the Nature Restoration Law still has a few more hurdles to clear before it is passed. 

The EU’s environmental committee will vote on this on 29th November, followed by a vote by the whole European Parliament. 

The law has already been through rounds of negotiations where some alterations were introduced weakening some elements compared to the initial law as proposed by the Commission. Nonetheless, the Nature Restoration Law is still a crucial and globally unique piece of legislation for future resilience and food security.

Guy Pe’er, a scientist at Germany's Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), and the lead author of the open letter signed by 6,000 scientists, presents his analysis of the law.

Scientist Guy Pe'er explains why the Nature Restoration Law is essential - and where it falls short:

1. Food security

Restoring nature is not a threat to our agricultural production or the industry. Instead, it can protect agriculture by securing healthy soils, clean water, crop pollination, and natural pest control - ecosystem services that are essential for the years to come. Nature Restoration means Europe can continue feeding future generations. 

2. Biodiversity 

Ecological research shows how central biodiversity is for our survival and how important healthy habitats are for people. We need to stop the loss of pollinators and the depletion of fish stocks. We need to ensure people have access to healthy green space for their health and wellbeing. Above all, we must avoid the risk of driving ecosystems beyond the critical tipping point where they collapse completely, with cascading consequences for Europe’s landscapes and citizens.

3. Climate adaptation and future resilience

With climate change we see not only rapidly rising temperatures but also increased frequency and severity of extreme events. We need to both mitigate climate change and adapt to rapid changes. Measures such as restoring peatlands are essential for sequestering carbon, and the protection of forests is needed for both carbon storage and biodiversity.

This law is not perfect. During negotiations some elements were weakened. The following weaknesses may pose serious challenges in implementation:

  • Monitoring and reporting every 6 (instead of 3) years may limit our capacity to identify implementation gaps or problems.  Six years leaves simply too much time for deterioration before an action can be taken. 
  • Placing an “emergency brake” on implementing the Nature Restoration Law in years of extreme events may come at too high a cost. Extreme events can lead to such emergencies, especially when ecosystems are in a poor state. Undermining part of the problem, instead of addressing the causes, is unlikely to help.
  • Higher priority for many other socioeconomic interests, including projects and even plans for projects, may allow Member States to de-prioritise critical actions.

Despite the weaknesses, this is an important law. Adopting it, and ensuring that member states are ambitious in implementing, will be crucial. Scientists are ready to help - it’s now for MEPs to take the first step. 


Scientists support the EU's Green Deal and reject the unjustified argumentation against the Sustainable Use Regulation and the Nature Restoration Law

The scientific community is deeply concerned about the ongoing discussions on the EU’s Green Deal. Of particular concern are the current criticisms targeting the Sustainable Use Regulation (SUR) and Nature Restoration Law (NRL). We urge policy makers to continue the legislative procedure for the SUR and the NRL, and invite opponents of the Green Deal for a consultation with scientists.

The call was led by 24 scientists and signed by 6,000 scientists across EU Member States and 30 additional countries. You can find the list of the signatories here and the full version of the paper below.


Pe’er, G., J. Kachler, I. Herzon, D. Hering, A. Arponen, L. Bosco, H. Bruelheide, M. Friedrichs-Manthey, G. Hagedorn, B. Hansjürgens, E. Ladouceur, S. Lakner, C. Liquete, I.S. Pinto, M. Quaas, M. Robuchon, D. Saavedra, N. Selva, J. Settele, C. Sirami, N. M. van Dam, H. Wittmer, E.R. J. Wubs, and A. Bonn (2023) Scientists support the EU’s Green Deal and reject the unjustified argumentation against the Sustainable Use Regulation and the Nature Restoration Law. Open letter (Full Version, 9.7.2023). PDF linked here.

Archive: the previous version is available in 13 languages below

The uploaded version (V9.7.2023) can be found here (English)

See our statement in...

Czech // Dutch // Finnish // French // German // Greek // Hungarian // Italian // Polish // Portuguese // Slovak // Spanish

(language variations are based on Version V1, 7.6.2023)

Upcoming: A longer version of the letter, now by a total of 22 authors, will be uploaded soon. Two more arguments will be added, counteracting the current claims against the NRL and SUR.


“Scientists support the Nature Restoration Law - Q & A by the authors of the Open Letter:

Guy Pe’er, Sebastian Lakner, Nicole van Dam, Irina Herzon, Gregor Hagedorn reply to the questions:

0:18 Why is the NRL so important?

6:54 Is the NRL threatening food security?

13:33 Can the NRL be a solution for both biodiversity crisis and climate change?

27:22 Who is standing behind the attack on the NRL?

45:46 What can each of us do now?

54:58 Why was it needed to write the Open letter?”


SCB Europe Region Press Release: Greece Gives Legal Protection to Roadless Areas

Biodiversity and ecosystems are highly threatened by road development worldwide. Greece has  taken the lead in Europe by legally protecting six mountainous roadless Natura 2000 sites from  further road fragmentation, introducing the first national roadless policy in Europe. Read the press release.

SCB Europe Region's letter to Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President of the European Commission, urging the EC to adopt a roadless policy

The SCB Europe Region wrote a letter to the Executive Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, to bring to the EC's attention to the impact of roads causing habitat fragmentation in Europe and to urge the Commission to adopt a roadless policy, by integrating a fragmentation minimization intervention in the implementation of the EU’s biodiversity strategy and 8th Environment Action Programme to 2030. Accordingly, this needs to be included in all concerned sectoral policies, also in the framework of the European Green Deal.

SCB European Region Scientists Express Concern Over Proposed Logging Expansion in Białowieża Forest

The Policy Committee of the SCB European Region (SCB-ES) wrote a letter to the Polish Prime Minister, Polish President, European Commissioner, UNESCO and Council of Europe expressing concern about the Polish Government's plans to modify the existing 2012-2021 Forest Management Plan for Białowieża Forest. In the letter, Dr. Nuria Selva and SCB-ES colleagues highlight that the forestry practices proposed in an amended Annex set out by the Polish Government, such as salvage logging as a response to bark beetle outbreaks, break the limits of timber extraction established in the Forest Management Plan 2012-2021, and are not only unnecessary for the protection of the Białowieża Forest, but are counterproductive. Efforts by Selva and Polish scientists were highlighted in an article in Nature.

EU Commissioner Vella Eludes Plea for Better Involvement of the Scientific Community

In his response letter to our Statement “Scientists Call for Strengthening the EU Legal Framework for Nature Conservation” (see below), Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, declares the gathering of evidence for the current “Fitness Check” of the Nature Directives closed. However, we maintain our claim that a better involvement of the scientific community in the ongoing evaluation process, as well as in any other future undertakings of this kind, is crucial. The Europe Region of SCB, supported by its Policy Committee, will continue advocating for improving the science underlying the Nature Directives and their implementation. 

The Roadless Areas Initiative in the Brand New Handbook of Road Ecology

The Handbook of Road Ecology is out now, available for purchase direct from Wiley. The third chapter “Why keep areas road free? The importance of roadless areas“ was co-authored by three members of the Policy Committee’s Roadless Areas Initiative. Among others, the chapter makes the following important recommendation for traffic infrastructure planning:
  • Planning of new transport routes should identify existing roadless areas and avoid them.
  • Subsequent (‘contagious’) development effects of road construction should be avoided in roadless and low-traffic areas.
  • Unnecessary and ecologically damaging roads should be reclaimed to enlarge roadless areas and restore landscape‐level processes.
  • It is crucial to systematically evaluate the need for and location of proposed roads and implement the principle of ‘no net loss’ of unfragmented lands when there is no alternative.


Statement: Scientists Call for Strengthening the EU Legal Framework for Nature Conservation

On 19 October 2015, the Europe Region of the Society for Conservation Biology issued a statement that calls on European leaders to strengthen the EU legal framework for nature conservation. The statement is part of a long-term initiative of the Policy Committee of SCB’s Europe Section on improving the science underlying Natura 2000.
See above (EU Commissioner Vella Eludes Plea for Better Involvement of the Scientific Committee) for an update on this story. 

ICCB-ECCB 2015: PC Mission Accomplished

The Policy Committee of SCB's Europe Region contributed a broad variety of activities to the ICCB-ECCB 2015 in Montpellier, France, 2-6 August. We hope that our contributions helped ICCB-ECCB organizers accomplish the goal expressed in the congress motto: "Mission Biodiversity: Choosing new paths for conservation"!

Trip to Brussels

We are currently consolidating the agenda of our trip to Brussels on 26-27 May 2015. We plan to meet with Members of the European Parliament, the EU Commission and NGOs. Main topics will include engagement of EU policy-makers and Brussels-based conservation NGOs in the congress, the Common Agricultural Policy, the Habitats and Birds Directives/Natura 2000 (in particular, the ongoing Fitness Check) and current work on an EU forest/forestry strategy.

Annual Report

The 2014 Annual Report “Policy Committee of SCB-ES: Activities, products and outcomes during 2014” is available for download.


Much of the work by the Policy Committee of SCB-Europe Region in 2015 focused on the International Congress for Conservation Biology - European Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB-ECCB 2015), which took place from 2-6 August in Montpellier, France. This included contributions to both the scientific programme and other activities (side events etc.).
We organised four symposia:
  • Symposium: The 100 priority questions for biodiversity conservation in Mediterranean-type regions of the world
  • Symposium: Roadless ecology and conservation of roadless areas across scales
  • Symposium: Natura 2000 – the status and fate of EU’s network of protected sites
  • Symposium: Green Infrastructure, connectivity, and the agricultural landscape
And one workshop:
  • Workshop: A Mediterranean basin SCB/IALE/ISOMED initiative: Targeting goals and action plan
We contributed individual talks to several other events within the scientific programme:
  • Symposium: Biodiversity and human development (Biber-Freudenberger, Center for Development Research, University of Bonn, Germany)
  • Symposium: Conservation at the cross-roads: how roads and other linear infrastructure influence conservation (Soanes, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Parkville, Australia)
  • Symposium: Moving forward Strategic Planning at Scale: Lessons from Europe, Australia and the United States (Leslie, National Parks Service, USA)
  • Round-table discussion: EU Overseas Territories (Martinez, IUCN)
Other activities included the creation of three prizes that will be awarded at the ICCB-ECCB 2015:
  • Swarovski Optic Green Footprint Prize
  • Young European Nature Conservationist Award
  • European Nature Conservation Policy Award
We also promoted an eco-friendly congress through several activities. Apart from the Swarovski Optic Green Footprint Prize, this included a carbon-setting programme for transport to and from the congress, and a reduction of waste through the “Best Mug and Bag" competitions were we encouraged attendees to bring their own mugs and bags to the meeting.