6th Dec 2023

Double rejection for EU flagship nature restoration plan

  • In the EU, more than 80 percent of habitats have a bad or poor conservation status (Photo: Wikipedia)
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MEPs on the fisheries committee on Wednesday (24 May) voted to reject the EU's flagship nature restoration proposal, a day after a similar rejection from the European Parliament's agriculture committee.

Now all eyes are on the environment committee (the lead committee on the proposal) which is expected to vote on the file on 15 June. The final plenary vote is due to take place in July.

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The EU nature restoration regulation, proposed by the EU Commission in June 2022, sets legally-binding targets to restore 20 percent of EU land and sea by 2030 — in a bid to halt biodiversity loss and reverse the degradation of ecosystems.

But lead MEP Spanish socialist César Luena has pushed for higher ambition, raising the target from 20 to 30 percent of land and sea restored by the end of the decade, and aligning the EU's goals with the international target agreed upon by world nations at UN biodiversity talks in Montreal last year.

"The restoration of nature in the EU is the only way to guarantee the resilience of our ecosystems, on which our economy and food security depend," he said on Twitter.

While the proposal is considered by many as a game-changer, it has recently come under severe criticism from conservative lawmakers who argue that the new law would harm farmers and food production in the EU.

The parliament's largest political group, the European People's Party (EPP), which has been leading the opposition against the nature restoration law, has now called on the commission to withdraw the proposal.

"We support biodiversity, but this proposal is not fit for purpose and should be withdrawn following the decisive votes in two parliamentary committees," said centre-right Romanian MEP Siegfried Mureşan.

However, the fisheries and agriculture committees' rejections are simply non-binding opinions to be considered by the environment committee.

Meanwhile, the Greens have accused conservative and liberal MEPs who rejected the proposal of aligning themselves with the far-right.

"The EPP and Renew are playing party politics at the expense of nature and farmers…The unholy coalition of EPP, Renew and far right-wing populists and extremists cannot be allowed to further undermine the European Green Deal," said Green German MEP Jutta Paulus.

During a debate in the parliament on Wednesday, businesses such as VELUX, Nestlé and Euroelectric argued that the nature restoration law could make a difference for their sectors.

"We aim to have 20 percent of raw materials coming from regenerative agriculture by 2025. Today, we are at seven percent. A nature restoration law would help accelerate the transition," said Bart Vandewaetere, who works for Nestlé Europe.

For their part, environmental groups have slammed centre-right lawmakers for ignoring science with a disinformation campaign.

"The living world is dying around us and science is very clear," said Ariel Brunner, director of the NGO Birdlife Europe during a debate in the parliament.

In the EU, more than 80 percent of habitats are in a bad or poor conservation status, one-third of groundwater is under pressure, bee and fish populations are in decline and most of the soil is in an unhealthy condition.

The cost

The risk of increasing costs for farmers and citizens is one of the arguments used by the EPP to vote for the full rejection of the nature restoration proposal.

However, according to the commission impact assessment, every euro invested in nature restoration adds some €8 to €38 in benefits regarding climate-change mitigation.

Overall, the estimated cost per citizen to implement this law is about €14 per year, bringing about €112 per year in return.

Putting a price on nature? Not a good idea, experts say

In a moment that could have been an act of polite rebellion, physicist and ecologist Vandana Shiva walked off stage during a speech about the need to 'put a price on nature' in the European Parliament this week.

Over 80% of Europe's habitats in poor or bad condition

A report from the European Environment Agency reveals the EU failed to meet the targets of its 2020 biodiversity strategy, with the vast majority of protected landscapes and species show notable deteriorating trends.

Fate of nature restoration law punted to plenary vote

Tuesday's committee vote showed there was no majority to reject the nature restoration law — but the final vote on the report also fell short of the majority required to receive the committee approval.


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