Historic law on nature restoration to be debated in European parliament
Jun 23 2023
With escalating ecological crises across the globe, Europe strives to lead the world in creating green policies to meet the growing challenge. Last Thursday, the EU's drive towards ecological innovation barely escaped a potential derailment. The draft legislation on restoring nature and lost species throughout Europe, under attack by conservative lawmakers, narrowly survived a critical vote in the European Parliament's environment committee, meaning that ground-breaking environmental regulation are back on the cards.
The committee, comprised of 88 members, saw an equal split vote, 44 to 44, against the motion submitted by the European People’s Party, a conservative group. The resulting tie led to the motion's defeat, which was received with a burst of applause in Strasbourg, France. However, uncertainty shrouds the future of this legislation.
Owing to time constraints, the committee couldn't complete the voting process for a substantial list of amendments or for the entire legislation. The intent is to reconvene in Brussels by the end of the month and continue deliberations, ahead of the full legislative assembly's final verdict in July.
Michael Bloss, the climate policy spokesperson for the Greens in the EU Parliament, accused the conservatives of attempting to obstruct the European Green Deal, a critical initiative for climate action in Europe. He expressed relief at the thwarting of the conservatives' attempt to discard the climate protection law but cautioned that the struggle was far from over.
The draft legislation had previously garnered support from notable climate activist Greta Thunberg, several non-governmental organizations, and global corporations including Nestle, Coca-Cola Europe, and Danone. The EU’s executive commission proposed the law, which would enforce mandatory restoration targets for certain habitats and species, intending to cover at least 20% of Europe's terrestrial and marine areas by 2030.
Though the draft was rejected by two other committees in May, the recent vote held immense significance as it involved the lead committee for the legislation. Pascal Canfin, the environment committee chair, lauded the defeat of conservative and far-right forces, who had sought to dismantle the nature restoration law.
As part of its endeavour to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, the EU has implemented numerous measures, spanning energy consumption reduction, significant transportation emission cuts, and restructuring the EU’s greenhouse gases trading system.
Nevertheless, the looming European Parliament elections in 2024 have ignited concerns among leaders and lawmakers about possible adverse reactions from workers due to restrictive legislations and requirements.
The chief opposition to the nature restoration law was orchestrated by the European People’s Party, the Parliament's largest faction. They called for the European Commission to retract the proposal and subsequently disengaged from the negotiations. The party voiced concerns that the law could potentially compromise Europe's agriculture and food security.
EPP members cautioned that abandoning farmland might trigger food price inflation, increase imports, and drive farmers out of businesses. On the contrary, environmental organizations and a consortium of large corporations argue that the legislation is crucial to tackle both climate change and biodiversity loss.
According to the European Commission, 81% of habitats in Europe are in poor condition. The proposed legislation aims to set legally binding targets to halve pesticide usage by 2030 and ban pesticides in public parks, playgrounds, and schools.
To facilitate the transition towards alternative pest control methods, the EU has proposed financial support for farmers, covering the cost of complying with the new requirements for five years.
This debate over the EU Nature Restoration Law is emblematic of broader global discussions around environmental conservation and economic resilience. As Europe stands on the cusp of significant decisions impacting its ecological future, the world watches with bated breath.
While some fear potential economic disruption from strict environmental regulations, growing evidence suggests that these measures can stimulate innovation, economic transformation, and sustainable growth. If adopted, the Nature Restoration Law, along with other environmental legislations, could become pivotal steps towards a more sustainable future.
The EU, with its history of progressive environmental legislation, is poised to set a global example of balancing ecological restoration with socio-economic development. The rest of the world might follow the path it charts, thus shaping a competitive, resilient, and sustainable global economy.
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