Run4Nature: “Make Europe’s nature fit again”, runners urge Commissioner Sinkevicius

Posted on 28 October 2021

The upcoming EU nature restoration law must not become a missed opportunity.


Brussels, Belgium - 27 runners representing the EU Member States took part in a symbolic relay race around the European Commission headquarters in Brussels today. They were calling on the EU to adopt a robust law to help Europe’s nature to recover. The run, which was organised by WWF and Youth and Environment Europe (YEE), took place ahead of the Commission proposal for an EU nature restoration law, expected in early 2022 [1][2].

The runners many of them children and young people handed over a symbol of nature restoration [3] to EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius. They urged him to present a law that is credible, ambitious and targeted in order to make a real difference and bring back Europe’s nature for the benefit of the planet and the people [4].

“The health of our planet and our own health and wellbeing are inextricably linked, and unless we ‘make nature fit again’ by restoring it on a large scale, we risk creating a fragile environment open to infectious diseases, and decreasing our resilience to the extreme weather events brought on by climate change,” said Ester Asin, Director of the WWF European Policy Office. “The upcoming EU restoration law can be a hat-trick of wins for our climate, our biodiversity, and for people. The message of today’s run is clear: we need the Commission’s proposal to be truly ambitious and based on scientific evidence, rather than political compromise. Let’s not squander this opportunity!”

Protecting and restoring nature and well-functioning ecosystems is a fundamental tool in tackling the twin crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change. But today, nature is deteriorating at an unprecedented rate, and Europe is no exception, with 81% of protected habitats and 63% of species in the EU found to have a poor or bad conservation status [5].

To bend the curve of nature loss, protecting remaining natural places, while key, will not be sufficient – large scale nature restoration needs to become a legal requirement for all EU Member States.

“The biodiversity crisis is not just an ecological one. If we don’t act now to reverse nature loss,  the basic human freedoms will be threatened and the most vulnerable communities hardest hit,” said 
Tetiana Stadnyk, Secretary-General of Youth and Environment Europe. “We live in the age of exploitation where governments and corporations are stealing from the future generations, and it is their children and grandchildren who will face the consequences. We need the new EU nature restoration law to be in line with science, not corporate or political interests, in order to have a chance for intergenerational equity and environmental justice.”
 
For more information and to request interviews:

Bartosz Brzezinski
bbrzezinski@wwf.eu
+32 (0) 484 28 15 10
Communications Officer for Biodiversity and Agriculture
WWF European Policy Office

Notes to the editors:

Photos of today’s event are available on WWF's Flickr profile here.

[1] The law was initially expected to be presented in December 2021 but has now been delayed to January or March 2022.

[2] In the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the European Commission announced that it will propose legally binding EU nature restoration targets in 2021 to restore biodiversity and degraded ecosystems, in particular those with the most potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters.

WWF welcomes this proposal as a key tool to contribute to halting and restoring biodiversity loss and for climate change mitigation and adaptation. We are advocating for the following restoration targets by 2030:
  • At least 650,000 km2 of land (15% of the EU land area)
  • At least 1,000,000 km2 of sea (15% of the EU sea area)
  • At least 178,000 km of free-flowing river length (15% of overall river length)
  • ​A target for CO₂ removal by natural sinks as a separate target from the EU 2030 emission reduction target
The Commission is expected to publish its legal proposal by the end of this year. The Council of the EU and the European Parliament will review and amend the proposal in a co-decision process in 2022.
For more information on nature restoration, see here.

[3] The runners gave the Environment Commissioner a wooden ear trumpet carved by Olle Geris, an artist from the town of Theux, in Belgium, which was heavily impacted by this summers’ climate-induced floods. The trumpet has double symbolic meaning:
  • As an ear trumpet, it symbolises the need to listen to nature: How do we know we’re restoring nature the right way? We not only see it, but also hear it - through bird songs, for example, which are one of the key indicators of how healthy our ecosystems are.
  • Carved by an artist from a region already hit hard by climate change, the trumpet also serves as a reminder that climate change is already here and we need to urgently restore nature to protect us from its impacts.
[4] A growing body of evidence shows that nature contributes to people’s overall health and wellbeing and provides significant socio-economic benefits, including sustainable jobs and ecotourism opportunities. Protecting and restoring nature and well-functioning ecosystems is also fundamental to tackling the twin crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change. For more on the benefits of nature restoration, see WWF factsheets:
  • Health benefits of nature restoration - from helping to reduce the risk of certain diseases to boosting our mental health, investing in nature restoration offers countless benefits to people's health and wellbeing.
  • Economic benefits of nature restoration - from strengthening local economies to restoring the social fabric of post-industrial regions, investing in nature restoration carries socio-economic benefits that far outweigh the initial costs.
  • Climate benefits of nature restoration - restoring ecosystems to a natural state will enable them to absorb and store more CO2 and will increase our resilience to the impacts of climate change.
[5] See State of nature in the EU (EEA, 2020)
.
Participants of the Run4Nature event on their way to meet with Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius
© Bartosz Brzezinski / WWF
Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius with one of the runners Louis Lambrechts from WWF
© WWF