A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for nature restoration across Europe

A vista across the Cairngorms National Park. (c) Silvio Augusto Rusmigo

Today’s blog is written by Fiona Dobson about the pivotal EU Nature Restoration Law and its turbulent passage through the European Parliament. She shares inspiring examples of pioneering nature restoration in Scotland which show what’s possible. 

Nature restoration is one of the biggest opportunities – and responsibilities – of our time. On our part of the planet, we’ve spent far too long taking nature for granted, leaving much of Europe’s nature in a sorry state. Yet we’re in a pivotal moment – with a potentially game-changing law passing through the European Parliament – to shift our approach to one of restoration and recovery! 

The European Commission have proposed a new law – the EU Nature Restoration Law – that sets legally binding targets to bring back our nature and place Europe’s degraded habitats on a path to recovery. As you read this, the law is in the process of being assessed by the European Parliament. Despite the overwhelming evidence that this law is urgent and essential for a safe future, there are vested interests who seek to maintain the status quo. We are supporting our Birdlife Partners to save the law – and the future of nature and citizens across Europe – before it’s too late!

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity 

On 22 June 2022, the European Commission published their long-awaited proposal for the EU Nature Restoration Law. This proposal is packed with potentially game-changing legally binding targets, from action for pollinators, forests and rivers to urban and agricultural ecosystems. It proposes to restore at least 20 % of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and repair all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.  

At the moment, over 80% of habitats in the EU are in poor condition and only 23% of species monitored under the EU Nature Directives are in good health. The situation is similar in the UK - the UK is currently placed in the lowest 12% of global countries and territories for biodiversity intactness. Restoration is urgently needed to bring nature back and build Europe’s resilience. This law is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reverse the biodiversity and climate crises by placing the EU’s degraded nature on a path to recovery. 

(c) Silvio Augusto Rusmigo


Even though the proposed law covers the EU and would not apply in the UK, its success is crucial for our future in the UK too. Nature knows no borders – so if habitats are restored and able to flourish across the region, nature in the UK, particularly our migratory birds, like Turtle Doves, see huge benefits. Furthermore, in Scotland there is a commitment to keep pace with the EU on environmental standards and the Scottish Government is planning to bring forward a Natural Environment Bill next year, creating a big opportunity for Scotland to match the targets in the EU restoration law. 

This is the perfect time for action. Not only are we in the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, but countries have globally just signed up to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. It’s time to see the delivery of those promises. 


Our future is in jeopardy  

It’s crunch time. The proposal for the EU Nature Restoration Law is being voted on by the European Parliament and Council, and the results so far are deeply concerning. Despite the clear science that nature restoration at this scale across Europe would deliver extensive benefits for nature, climate and people, there are powerful groups seeking to derail it. 

For months, vested interests trying to protect the status quo have been leading a disinformation campaign, making all sorts of false claims about the impact of nature restoration on food security and development. Alarmingly, this has taken its toll. Last week the committees in the European Parliament responsible for agriculture and fisheries, both voted against this law. Instead of offering solutions to devastating floods and droughts that threaten farmers’ livelihoods and long-term food security, the agriculture committee turned a blind eye to farmers’ problems. 

But it’s not too late. The biggest voting sessions that will determine the fate of this law (and our future across Europe!) are still to come. There is still time for politicians to get back on the right side of history! 

We can show what’s possible! 

Given the state of our nature across Europe, and the power of the groups looking to continue to exploit it, it can feel impossible to see a world where nature and people can thrive again. And yet we know it can be done - we have incredible, inspiring examples! 

In the midst of the fighting over the Nature Restoration Law in the halls of the European Parliament, we took our BirdLife partners from across Europe out into Scottish Highlands to see large-scale nature restoration in action. 

We visited the pioneering restoration sites within the Cairngorms Connect partnership, and what we saw was astounding. In the words of Ariel Brunner, Regional Director of BirdLife Europe and Central Asia: we witnessed “A stunning landscape where overgrazed, eroding and drained wastelands are becoming a vibrant mosaic of forest, scrub, heathland and raised bogs. More carbon, more biodiversity, less floods, more and better jobs. #RestoreNature at its best” 

Ariel Brunner and (Regional Director of BirdLife Europe and Central Asia) discussing nature restoration on a tour of RSPB Abernethy. (c) Silvio Augusto Rusmigo

Cairngorms Connect is a partnership of neighbouring landowners – including RSPB Scotland – committed to a bold and ambitious 200-year vision to restore a vast area within the Cairngorms National Park. Supported by the Endangered Landscapes Programme, this is a fantastic example of large-scale nature restoration. The results speak for themselves: we saw naturally regenerating trees, peatlands and floodplains under restoration, and heard about new and fulfilling employment opportunities.  

Our partners came away inspired, and with a renewed courage to demand action from our politicians for a better future. 

Restoring nature is about caring 

As BirdLife’s #RestoreNature campaign puts it: “Restoring nature is about caring: about humanity, about our planet, about the future”. We certainly saw this in the people working in the Cairngorms Connect Partnership. Their vision for the future is one in which people and nature can thrive. It’s about time that our politicians – whether they be those in the midst of voting on the EU Nature Restoration Law or taking decisions for the future of nature in the UK – embrace that vision too. 

Add your voice! 

(c) Silvio Augusto Rusmigo

Our partners at BirdLife Europe and Central Asia have been leading a campaign to push for the delivery of an ambitious EU Nature Restoration Law. Here’s what you can do: 

1. Add your voice to the campaign, by signing here! 

2. Like and share the updates and rallying calls from the BirdLife team on Twitter here 

3. Share your own stories of inspiring nature restoration. When sharing them on Twitter you can tag @BirdLifeEurope and #RestoreNature!  

It’s more important than ever to come together to show what’s possible, and demand a better future for us all! 

The #RestoreNature campaign website has a wealth of information which you can explore to find out more.