EU’s Nature Restoration Law won’t be sent back to the drawing board

Pictured: French Pyrenees

The EU’s Nature Restoration package will, if adopted, mark the first time that the bloc has legally-binding targets to reverse biodiversity loss. The law proposes that restoration measures are to be implemented on at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and repair all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

Progressing the package has been challenging, to say the least. It was first tabled in June 2022 and has faced major opposition from EU member states that are highly economically dependent on farming, including Ireland.

Some other countries have also expressed concerns about the administrative burden of delivering and monitoring nature restoration schemes.

In most EU member states, politicians have taken part in a concerted push to axe the package in its current form and oversee a complete re-write. This position has been adopted by the European People’s Party, of which EU Comission President Ursula Von Der Leyen is a member.

Some members from the Identity and Democracy group have also slammed the package, including Italian MEP Rosanna Conte, who stated: “Less land for farmers, less sea for fishermen, less activity for businesses, and fewer European products and jobs for our citizens. These are the heavy repercussions of the proposals contained in a regulation permeated with ideology and counterproductive for nature itself.”

‘A crucial win’

More than 6,000 scientists said the law would not result in food insecurity or economic losses and pointed to the long-term opportunity to improve soil and water quality.

Senior executives from more than 80 businesses have, additionally, told MEPs that the package would help – not hinder – the private sector in Europe.

In a tense vote today, MEPs sided with these leaders. MEPs cast 312 votes in favour of ‘killing the bill’ and 342 against. 12 MEPs abstained from voting.

A series of amendments will now be put to the European Commission in an attempt to create a bill which MEPs can agree to support. But there is still a risk that there will be no majority in favour – a situation which would delay the bill for around a year, until elections in 2024 are complete.

The Nature Conservancy’s director for global policy and institutional partnerships, Noor Yafai, said the text is already “much less ambitious” than the initial version. Interjections have been made to weaken the requirements for farmers to restore nature and to reduce the use of pesticides, for example.

Yafai said: “Despite an audacious misinformation campaign carried out over many months and designed to kill off the EU Nature Restoration Law, the European Parliament has today come to the rescue of nature restoration as a vital first line of defence in the fight against climate change.

“Nature restoration can be financed sustainably, including by deploying innovative financing mechanisms that can benefit farmers and landowners without placing unrealistic burdens on taxpayers.”

Green economy reaction

The Nature Conservancy is one of many organisations to have advocated against ‘killing the bill’.

Business for Nature and the Corporate Leaders Group Europe convened dozens of Europe’s most influential businesses including Danone, IKEA and Nestle to advocate for the swift adoption of a science-based package, aligned with the UN’s biodiversity treaty.

Corporate Leaders Group Europe’s director Ursula Woodburn said: “Today’s policy signal from the European Parliament is a welcome sign of support for the Green Deal and a step forward on a legislative framework on nature restoration.

“However, many loopholes on timing and targets were adopted, which will affect long term legislative clarity. To truly implement the landmark Global Biodiversity Framework and address the nature and climate crises, the negotiations will now need to ensure that the final legislation is fit for purpose.”

Business for Nature’s chief executive Eva Zabey added: “Although this is a less ambitious version than the Commission originally proposed, it provides a foundation for the negotiations between the parliament and the council to finalise the law.”

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