Commonland has come together with Landscape Finance Lab, as well as 19 other contributors, to issue a policy briefing offering guidance to EU institutions and Member States on why and how to leverage holistic landscape restoration to substantially, effectively, and efficiently deliver the European Green Deal (EGD).

The EGD represents a unique opportunity for Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent and put nature on track to recovery. Launched in December 2019, the EGD focuses on transitioning Europe from a linear to a circular economic model within a restored and climate-resilient environment. 

Until now, climate, ecological, agricultural, energy, socioeconomic and health challenges have typically been tackled separately. Yet, to effectively reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and meet the 1.5°C Paris Agreement, while curbing and reversing the loss of Europe’s biodiversity and soil degradation, integrated and systemic action is essential. 

It is only through long term thinking and a holistic approach that we can secure sustainable, climate-resilient and regenerative societies and concurrently address the complex environmental, social and economic challenges we face. 

Using a landscape approach to address these challenges is critical. Landscape approaches typically have impact at scales and depths far greater than a single project approach can accomplish. While national restoration plans may sit within the “environment” silo, restoration at the landscape scale can generate substantial benefits to business, energy, finance and community stakeholders, especially in the context of climate, agriculture, fisheries, and social justice challenges. 

Landscape restoration places both nature and people at the heart of socioeconomic recovery and growth. It enables us to restore land-based economies that could meet local people’s needs while respecting planetary boundaries. Holistic management approaches in landscapes cut across institutional boundaries and policies, including climate action, pollution, biodiversity, and agri-food systems. Landscape restoration strategies that produce natural, social, financial and inspirational returns can therefore equip the EU to meet its 2050 climate-neutrality goals. 

As Patrick Worms, President, International Union of Agroforestry and Vice-President, European agroforestry Federation, and contributor to the briefing notes, “it is now clear to almost everybody that the negative externalities of petrochemical farming are becoming systemically threatening, just as the benefits it has provided are plateauing. It is imperative that we add the latest insights from agroecological science to the toolkit of the average farmer, rancher and forester, and of the communities to which they belong. This is easier said than done, which is why this report is so helpful. It outlines in clear and compelling ways the steps that policymakers, investors and land users can take together to move from a degenerative to a regenerative exploitation of our agricultural landscapes.

The key recommendations for the European Commission and Member States are:

  1. Promote holistic landscape restoration, and stakeholder and right-holder engagement, in the publication of new national restoration plan guidelines. 
  2. Encourage national restoration plans to budget the costs of building strong multi- stakeholder processes designed to build trust, create cohesive and inclusive collaborative action, and mitigate conflict at the landscape scale. 
  3. Mainstream inclusion and equity objectives in national and subnational landscape restoration plans. Ensure that they contain pro-active measures to address social fairness and justice based on an understanding of the social landscape. 
  4. Promote national restoration plans that invest in community-driven landscape restoration programmes with demonstrable pathways for social investment and impact. 
  5. Ensure national restoration plans include pathways for aligning cross-institutional and organisational arrangements. 
  6. In preparing their national restoration plans, Member States should include long- term planning tools linking bottom-up methods involving engaged communities with top-down strategies that take into consideration the timescale and commitment required. 
  7. National restoration plans should include restoration measures designed to develop shared purpose, vision and responsibility among landscape stakeholders. 
  8. Ensure all EU policies are aligned with preserving and restoring Europe’s biodiversity and natural capital at the landscape scale. 
  9. Provide guidance on and promote integrated landscape- scale restoration approaches to address cross-border needs and maximise synergies between land and sea restoration measures. 
  10. Conduct a systematic review of the state of holistic landscape restoration in Europe to understand the extent to which the landscape approach is being applied to ecosystem restoration. 
  11. Encourage the integration of landscape restoration into adaptation action planning. In improving their adaptation strategies and plans, Member State governments can implement measures to achieve more systemic and faster adaptation. 
  12. Mainstream environmental, biodiversity and climate change objectives in all European funds and programmes deployed at the landscape scale. 
  13. Develop options for earmarked funding of restoration to enable the fast-tracking of restoration planning and action. 
  14. Identify opportunities where climate finance and funds from results- based payments can support the delivery of wider landscape objectives; and clarify the role of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement to define future compliance and voluntary carbon markets, and how they can support carbon finance investments in landscapes. 
  15. Establish and provide significant finance for technical assistance facilities for the design of landscape-scale blended finance mechanisms. Technical assistance promotes bankable projects and mitigates financial risks in the initial phase of restoration projects. The Commission could achieve this via EIB and EBRD and other key institutional financiers. 

The briefing was created with contributors from Wetlands International, SER Europe, World Resources InstituteETH Zurich, European Federation for Hunting and Conservation, Climate Catalyst, Gold Standard Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Ashoka Netherlands, Natuurmonumenten, Fundación Global Nature, CARE Nederlands, European agroforestry Federation, Inspiration 4 Action, CIFOR-ICRAF, and Climate-KIC.

Download Achieving the European Green Deal through Landscape Restoration

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