The bee-eater would benefit from restored river banks. © A. Vorauer

Rivers in the Green Deal

The EU Commission has now presented its 2030 biodiversity strategy within the Green Deal. It stipulates quite challenging targets, such as the expansion of protected areas to at least 30% of European land and seas, as well as a restoration approach. The latter includes the target of restoring at least 25,000 kilometers of rivers. We welcome these guidelines; however, this only makes sense if the destruction of rivers is stopped at the same time. Otherwise, it would be like planting new trees but clearing old forests simultaneously. The planned construction of almost 9,000 new hydropower plants in Europe (5,740 of which in the EU) would likely destroy far more river kilometers than what will be gained through restoration. Important demands for the new biodiversity strategy are therefore:

  1. Protection of the last free-flowing river sections must be a top priority.
  2. The kilometers of restored river must be a net gain, meaning the must not be cancelled out by destroyed rivers kilometers. By 2030, we must have at least 25,000 kilometers more intact streams and rivers than we do today.