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Initiatives by the European Commission to restore the continent’s degraded areas (J. Cortina-Segarra et al. Nature 535, 231; 2016) have proved disappointing. As the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration gathers momentum, the commission is preparing a law that has legally binding targets. To underscore the urgency, some 1,400 European scientists and 30 expert networks and institutions have signed a declaration by the Society for Ecological Restoration Europe (see go.nature.com/3st6k88).