The European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) narrowly voted against the move to reject the EU Nature Restoration Law, allowing the negotiations to continue.
- The EU’s Nature Restoration Law is intended to repair damage done to European nature by 2050. This is critical for the economy given the amount of economic activity dependent on nature.
- Conservative politicians are pushing back on the EU’s attempt to enact ambitious environmental legislation.
- Despite political concerns about regulatory burdens, analysis suggests implementing nature-positive policies could generate an estimated $10 trillion in new annual business value and create 395 million jobs by 2030.
The EU Nature Restoration Law is a vital piece of legislation, necessary for the restoration of Europe’s degraded habitats, including wetlands, and threatened biodiversity. The proposal mandates restoring at least 20% of the EU’s degraded land and seas by 2030 and all areas in need of restoration by 2050.
As Eva Zabey, chief executive of Business for Nature has pointed out, even though world governments in December last year adopted the Global Biodiversity Framework, which includes a mission to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030, some lobby groups seek a “regulatory pause” on environmental legislation in Europe.
The EU Nature Restoration Law aligns with several targets in the Global Biodiversity Framework, and a dilution of ambition would impede the EU’s progress in fulfilling the global agreement and its ability to contribute towards the transition to a nature-positive, net-zero and equitable economy.
Over 50 organisations recently sent a letter to the European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and the Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson, which currently holds the Council’s rotating presidency, calling on them to adopt the ambitious environmental legislation needed to address the twin nature and climate crises.
The EPP proposed the rejection of the legislation
Reports suggest that anti-nature lobbyists have been carrying out a disinformation campaign, a concern raised when the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) voted against the legislation in May 2023.
Ioannis Agapakis, nature conservation lawyer at ClientEarth said: “Agriculture isn’t separate to nature – it relies on it. For the agricultural sector to survive, we need a healthy and resilient environment. Current restoration efforts are clearly inadequate to tackle the twin climate and biodiversity crisis – the point is to expand them.”
When the regulation came up in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) in June, the European People’s Party (EPP) political group recommended voting against it. Prior to the vote, Bas Eickhout MEP, Greens/EFA Vice Chair of the Environment Committee said: “The EPP is fighting to bring down this law as part of their misguided and shortsighted crusade against the Green Deal. But while the EPP is playing dirty politics, the progressive forces in the Parliament all agree we need to be serious about supporting nature and undoing the damage done to our environment over the last decades. This law is crucial to improve nature in Europe over the coming years, which is in a critical condition. Businesses, citizens and scientists all insist this is necessary.
The ENVI Committed rejected the proposal by a split vote, allowing discussion of the various amendments to the legislation to continue. It’s not all good news however, as MEPs passed proposals to water down targets on the restoration of ecosystems on agricultural land, including scrapping the targets for peatlands drained for agriculture.
Current status of the EU Nature Restoration Law
It was widely expected that a rejection by the ENVI Committee could signal the political end of the Nature Restoration Law. The ENVI Committee did not have the time to complete voting on all the proposed amendments, so voting will continue at the next Committee meeting, expected to be on 27 June. This will include final approval of the text setting the scene for adoption, or not, by the Parliament in July.
Analysis from Wetlands International has assessed the current status of the legislation as follows:
The good: the ENVI Committee supported some of the compromise amendments proposed by MEP César Luena, the Rapporteur, and the political groups the Socialists & Democrats, Renew, Greens and The Left, notably on marine ecosystems, rivers, pollinators, reporting and monitoring. Some of the proposals represent an improvement on the Commission’s original proposal.
The bad: MEPs approved proposals to water down targets for the restoration of ecosystems on agricultural land, including an EPP proposal scrapping restoration targets for peatlands drained for agriculture.
The EU seems to be falling prey to the binary approach to environmental legislation, in that conservatives are opposed to transformative action. While it’s understandable that politicians are opposed to implementing legislation that may not be popular in the short term, the long-term trajectory of climate and nature requires transformative action.
Whatever happens to this particular piece of legislation, momentum towards combined action on nature and climate continues to grow, as increasing scientific knowledge combined with the technological capacity to act increases. Companies wishing to manage their way through the process of understanding their impact should begin as soon as possible, so as to avoid playing catchup in the way many have been forced to with regard to expectations around GHGs.