Underpinned by knowledge in the latest IPCC and IPBES reports, large-scale ecosystem restoration is urgent – the window of opportunity is closing rapidly. It needs a systemic approach to deliver tangible benefits on the European Green Deal actions for climate (mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction), biodiversity, zero pollution and sustainable food systems (from farm to fork), health and wellbeing. Actions under this topic should therefore be pivotal in demonstrating and promoting systemic solutions for upscaling urgent restoration to increase biodiversity and support a wide range of ecosystem services, as requested in the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 for damaged terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems.
Resilient, healthy ecosystems are natural carbon stocks and sinks. They can remove CO2 from the atmosphere and support adaptation to climate change and disaster risk reduction. In addition to delivering a wide range of other services (oxygen source, improved health and well-being, recreation, water retention and purification, air quality, nutrient cycling or pollination), ecosystems are essential in a wide range of sectors which impact the everyday life of Europe’s citizens (food, feed, fibre or fuel provision across the bioeconomy). However, biodiversity is being lost and ecosystems are degrading at an alarming rate. Pressures on biodiversity are increasing at a faster rate than the efforts to protect it. The integrity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and their capacity to deliver a wide range of essential services to people, will be further undermined by the effects of unavoidable climate change. There is therefore a need to strengthen their resilience against environmental and climate stressors while integrating the local socio-economic specificities of their surrounding environment.
While solutions for the restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services are available now, they are neither up-scaled nor integrated enough in today’s governance, investment or policy support landscapes. Research and demonstration on how to scale up technical and non-technical approaches for the spatial and social-economic integration of restoration impacts is therefore needed. The environmental emergency highlights the limits of current management approaches and calls for investment in innovative, sustainable and effective restoration including through mobilising innovative funding and cross-sectoral collaborations that could trigger transformational change. Moreover, the global biodiversity post-2020 framework seeks voluntary commitments by business and stakeholders to invest in biodiversity and new approaches to speed up actions in the framework of the UN decade for restoration.
- provide large-scale demonstrators of how systemic upscaling and replication of best practice ecosystem restoration can be deployed at regional, national and cross-border levels, focusing on degraded terrestrial, freshwater, coastal or marine ecosystems, responding to relevant restoration goals enhancing biodiversity;
- in line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, restore degraded ecosystems, in particular those with high potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters, and, where relevant, to contribute to the achievement of favourable status for species and habitats of the Birds and Habitats Directives inside and outside the Natura 2000 network of protected areas;
- adapt, integrate and demonstrate innovative methods (technological, non-technological, social and governance, including sustainable financing) on upscaling ecosystem restoration, also in regions and for communities in transition;
- support the development of specific demand and supply chains in restoring ecosystems on land or at sea – recognising that conditions at sea can considerably differ from the ones on land (including freshwater), that speed of change and disturbance might differ, and that solutions to reverse biodiversity decline are context-specific;
- demonstrate and test how restoration activities and socio-ecological management of ecosystems enable sustainable, climate-neutral and climate-resilient, inclusive, transformative approaches, including across the bioeconomy (agriculture, forestry, marine and innovative bio-based sectors) and as investments in disaster risk reduction;
- promote scaling up and stepping up of implementation of nature-based solutions building on existing experience in particular on lessons learned and best practices gained through EU-funded projects and initiatives such as those supported by Horizon 2020 and the LIFE programme in order to address barriers to implementation for systemic nature-based solutions focussing on restoration in urban, peri-urban, rural or marine areas;
- showcase how restoring ecosystems at large scale will also help human communities to adapt to changing conditions at their local level, and how restoration activities can be integrated into economically and socially viable land use practices, enabling a shift of social and behavioural patterns towards increased benefits for biodiversity and strengthening social acceptance and social resilience;
- demonstrate how to maximise synergies and avoid trade-offs between priorities for restoring biodiversity, mitigating and adapting to climate change (such as those identified jointly by the IPCC and IPBES).
- generate knowledge on how large-scale restoration can accelerate transformative change beneficial for biodiversity and climate resilience, and bring this information to UN programmes, as well as to IPCC and IPBES, processes.
Actions are expected to demonstrate how transformational change through ecosystem restoration delivers at large scale, delivering first visible results and examples on land and at sea by 2024, with benefits increasing in the long-term.
The project results are expected to contribute to:
- maintained and enhanced natural carbon sinks and reduced greenhouse gas emissions through the important role of biodiversity, local reversal of the degradation of ecosystems, recovery of ecosystem functions, increased connectivity and resilience of ecosystems, and improved delivery of a range of ecosystem services;
- the objectives of the European Green Deal, including the EU commitment to reduce emission by 50-55% by 2030 and become net carbon-neutral by 2050; the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the EU Nature Directives, the Water and Marine Strategy Framework Directives, the Farm-to-Fork Strategy, the Pollinators Initiative, the Climate Law, the Bioeconomy Strategy and Action Plan, EU Urban Policies, and the revised EU Adaptation Strategy; supporting the EU Covenant of Mayors, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030), the UN Decade of Restoration including land/sea degradation neutrality, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals;
- widespread and innovative scaling-up of ecosystem restoration to maintain and enhance natural carbon sinks and other ecosystem services, with a view to significantly reducing the carbon and environmental footprint of Europe;
- increased restoration through uptake of public-private partnerships and (voluntary) market-based incentives for business and individuals within restoration initiatives, including as the result of trans-disciplinary research and stakeholder engagement to help identify co-funding for long-term maintenance and buy-in from the private sector;
- enhanced empowerment, engagement and reconnection of local communities with nature and increased social awareness on restoration actions, and their benefits;
- transformational change supporting a just transition based on investing in nature together with vulnerable regions and communities improving their resilience of in the face of rapid changes in climate and environment, economies and social conditions.
26 January 2021