Make peatlands part of Nature Restoration Law!
EU trilogue negotiations ongoing, final resolution imminent
1. November 2023 – In limbo between hope and fear: Such is the atmosphere around the ongoing trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament, Council and Commission. Does Europe's future also include intact ecosystems in peatlands, forests and other parts of nature? Over the past months, the foundations were at least laid for such a future: A majority of the EU Parliament voted on 12. July for the Nature Restoration Law. Now, in the last of three trilogue negotiations, it's all coming down to a final decision on 9. November regarding the concrete wording of the law. Many details of enormous significance to biodiversity and climate protection hang in the balance.
The fight over peatlands in agro-ecosystems
The draft of the law currently contains 23 articles. One in particular has been the focus of intense debate behind the scenes – Article 9. It pertains to the restoration of ecosystems used for agricultural purposes and could – if it makes it into the final wording of the law – define effective restoration targets with regards to these areas for all 27 EU member states. Along with the protection of farmland birds, grassland butterflies, landscape elements and soil conservation, agriculturally utilised peat soil also falls under the scope of these objectives.
With the new law, the EU wishes not "only" to restore nature, but also to make an essential contribution towards food security. Alone for this reason, ambitious standards for the restoration of agro-ecosystems must be a central pillar of the law. Also in light of climate protection and adaptation to climate change, it is vital that peatland areas play a central role in the trilogue discussions.
For today, approximately 50 percent of all peatlands within the EU are in a degraded state, primarily through exploitation for agricultural and forestry purposes. These areas no longer contain peatland-typical species like black grouse, cranberry fritillaries or peat moss. Additionally, approximately seven percent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions come from drained peatlands used for agriculture or forestry. Within the EU, Germany is the biggest culprit on this front. In this condition, degraded peatlands further exacerbate the climate crisis. However, if the EU would take care of its peatlands, they could serve as the most effective carbon sinks among terrestrial ecosystems and provide a wide range of ecosystem services.
Over 100 organisations demand: "Power to the Peatlands!"
If the negotiators decide against the inclusion of Article 9, this would represent not only a capricious gap in the content of the law. It would also entail drastic long-term consequences for people and nature, wasting a unique opportunity to advance nature conservation in Europe. For a strong EU Nature Restoration Law, the inclusion of Article 9 in its entirety – with ambitious goals for the restoration of peatlands – is an absolute must for the final regulation.
Over 100 organisations, including BirdLife International, the Greifswald Mire Centre and NABU, spoke out this fall in Antwerp at the largest peatland protection conference to date in support of this goal. Under the motto "Power to the Peatlands", this alliance also calls for the law to be brought into accordance with overarching political goals and regulations of the EU. The declaration in its entirety can be found here.
Together, we call to all negotiators in the European Parliament, Council and Commission: Take a stand during the final stage of the discussions for an ambitious EU Nature Restoration Law and the protection of Europe's peatlands. The clock is ticking for our natural world.