Europe Passes Controversial Measure to Restore Nature

The new law, approved with a razor-thin margin, requires member states to introduce measures to restore twenty percent of land and sea by 2030.

Aval and Needle of Etretat, Normandy, France
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Aug. 17, 2023 14:15 UTC
Aval and Needle of Etretat, Normandy, France

The European Parliament has mar­gin­ally approved a con­tentious leg­isla­tive pro­posal of the European Commission to restore and pro­tect nature in its mem­ber states.

In what has been a fierce bat­tle between right- and left-wing polit­i­cal groups in the European Parliament, the new leg­is­la­tion received 336 par­lia­men­tary votes in favor and 300 against, while 13 mem­bers of the par­lia­ment (MEPs) abstained from vot­ing.

The Nature Restoration Law’ is a core pil­lar of the E.U.’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, a set of rec­om­men­da­tions tar­geted to restore Europe’s degraded ecosys­tems.

See Also:Farm to Fork Strategy Under Fire Ahead of European Elections in 2024

According to the com­mis­sion, more than 80 per­cent of the habi­tats in Europe are in poor con­di­tion. The com­mis­sion also noted that every Euro invested in restora­tion would return between €8 and €38 in ecosys­tem ser­vices.

Under the new bill, char­ac­ter­ized by the com­mis­sion as the first con­ti­nent-wide, com­pre­hen­sive law of its kind,” the E.U. mem­ber states must intro­duce mea­sures to restore nature on at least 20 per­cent of their land and sea by 2030.

Furthermore, by 2050, the mea­sures must be expanded to cover all ecosys­tems in need of restora­tion.

A day before the vot­ing, hun­dreds of farm­ers demon­strated in front of the European Parliament, call­ing on the MEPs to reject the new law. On the other hand, cli­mate activists, includ­ing Greta Thunberg, urged the MEPs to pass the law.


Voting for the Nature Restoration Law (European Parliament)

The Fisheries and Agriculture com­mit­tees of the European Parliament had pre­vi­ously rejected the bill. At the same time, it failed to gar­ner the nec­es­sary major­ity in the Environment com­mit­tee to move for­ward.

As a result, and accord­ing to stan­dard pro­ce­dure, the leg­is­la­tion was punted to the parliament’s ple­nary vote with the rec­om­men­da­tion to be scrapped. However, it man­aged to receive approval from the major­ity of European Parliament mem­bers.

It’s a huge social vic­tory,” César Luena, a cen­ter-left MEP from Spain in charge of the pro­posal, said. This is a law on behalf of nature. It’s not a law against any per­son what­so­ever.”

The new bill met strong oppo­si­tion from the European Parliament’s right-wing polit­i­cal groups, such as the cen­ter-right European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest law­maker group of the European Parliament, and the far-right Identity and Democracy Group.

Less land for farm­ers, less sea for fish­er­men, less activ­ity for busi­nesses, and fewer European prod­ucts and jobs for our cit­i­zens,” said Rosanna Conte, an Italian MEP from the Identity and Democracy group. These are the heavy reper­cus­sions of the pro­pos­als con­tained in a reg­u­la­tion per­me­ated with ide­ol­ogy and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive for nature itself.”

However, the parliament’s right-wing front suf­fered cracks, with some EPP mem­bers break­ing away from the group’s posi­tion to sup­port the pro­posed reg­u­la­tion.

I can­not, in good con­science, good faith, vote against this law,” said Frances Fitzgerald, an Irish MEP and the vice-chair of the EPP. We should have a con­struc­tive approach.”

The European Parliament finally agreed to a watered-down ver­sion of the orig­i­nal law, with amend­ments to remove the restora­tion of European peat­lands and delay the law’s appli­ca­tion until an offi­cial assess­ment of European food secu­rity has been car­ried out.

Farming lobby Copa-Cogeca said the law remained fun­da­men­tally ill-pre­pared, lacks a bud­get and will remain unim­ple­mentable for farm­ers and for­est own­ers.”

International envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions wel­comed the new reg­u­la­tion as a sig­nif­i­cant step toward pro­tect­ing Europe’s nature.

This vote shows that there is still hope to restore and grow what’s left,” said Špela Bandelj, Greenpeace’s Central and Eastern Europe bio­di­ver­sity project man­ager. As another unprece­dented heat­wave grips Europe, it’s clear that to sur­vive cli­mate break­down and ensure food sup­plies, we’ll need nature on our side.”

Next, The par­lia­ment will nego­ti­ate with the mem­ber states to thrash out the regulation’s pro­vi­sions and final­ize the text.

After the reg­u­la­tion comes into force, the E.U. coun­tries will be expected to sub­mit national restora­tion plans to the Commission within two years.

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