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Nature Restoration Law

A heated vote divided the European Parliament. What was the outcome?

Image source: © Canva / Canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
12.07.2023 15:30

The European Parliament voted on a new environmental legislation. It has been a long time since any project has divided MEPs so much.

On 12 July, an important vote took place in the European Parliament. What had been generating a lot of excitement for a long time was the work on the Nature Restoration Law (NRL). It will oblige EU countries to take action to restore at least 20 per cent of European ecosystems by 2030.

The Nature Restoration Law is one of the key pillars of the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, which aims to protect us from the effects of the climate crisis, food shortage, forest fires and other natural disasters, and to halt the extinction of local animal species. According to European Commission estimates, currently 81 per cent of wildlife habitats are in "poor condition".

Who is against the Nature Restoration Law?

The law was attempted to be blocked by the centre-right European People's Party (EPP). It includes MEPs from the Civic Coalition (pol. Koalicja Obywatelska, KO) and the Polish People's Party (pol. Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, PSL). The EPP tabled an amendment calling to reject the draft Nature Restoration Regulation outright and send the European Commission back to the drawing board. The vote on the amendment ended with 324 votes against, 312 in favour and 12 abstentions.

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The fact that the law was eventually passed with 336 votes in favour, 300 against and 13 abstentions, was reported on Twitter by, among others, MEP Robet Biedroń. He took the opportunity to tout KO's work in Parliament under the leadership of EPP leader Manfred Weber, who was one of the most vocal opponents of the new law. It’s worth noting that 21 EPP members, in contrast with their leader, voted in favour of the new legislation.

The NRL covers a wide range of topics related to halting and reversing environmental degradation. It includes demands for restoring pollinating insects habitats, improving forest ecosystems, peatlands and marine ecosystems. River barriers are to be reviewed for their necessity. Nature is also set to return to European cities, with a minimum of 10 per cent urban tree canopy cover by 2050.

Conservative opponents of the Nature Restoration Law in the EP believe that the legislation goes too far and could have an adverse impact on industries such as agriculture and fisheries, among others. One might suspect that they fear their constituents' dissatisfaction with EU shifting its priorities towards the prevention of climate catastrophe.

Who supports the Nature Restoration Law?

Scientists, on the other hand, have been calling for the adoption of the law. In a statement to the science.org website, marine biologist and head of the French national research institute CSNR Joachim Claudet summed up the controversy surrounding the passage of the new EU legislation this way:

To me, it’s not so much about industry versus environment, but rather about short-term versus long-term [vision]. Nature doesn’t work on the same timeline as electoral mandates.

- Joachim Claudet CSNR

Interestingly, as reported by euronews.com, European corporations such as IKEA, H&M, Iberdrola, Unilever, Nestlé and Danone are in favour of the new EU legislation. They realise that the depletion of Europe's natural resources such as forests and fish habitats and the further depletion and drainage of the soil is against their long-term interests.

The regulation will now be sent back to the EP's environment committee, where it had been previously voted down by a 44-44 margin, falling short of a majority in favour. MEPs will then enter negotiations with member states to fine-tune the provisions and craft a compromise text that could then be endorsed by both co-legislators, Euronews reports.

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