EU agrees on nature restoration law

news 21-Jun-2023 Europe

The majority of EU environment ministers have adopted a proposal for a law that sets restoration targets for 2050. Dry moors are to be wetted, and forests reforested as part of the law.

The plans are controversial in the EU Parliament.

The environment ministers of EU countries have agreed on their position on a controversial nature conservation law. The "Nature Restoration Law" is intended to preserve ecosystems from collapse.

EU diplomats told the news agency dpa that 20 countries had voted for the proposal and five against, namely Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland. Belgium and Austria abstained, according to the diplomats.

Restoration measures in several steps

The EU countries are to take measures to bring at least 30 percent of habitats in land, coastal, freshwater and marine ecosystems in poor condition back to a good condition by 2030.

By 2040, restoration measures should be taken for at least 60 percent of habitats in poor condition and by 2050 for at least 90 percent.

There are also plans for the rehydration of river meadows or moors to reduce the effects of drought periods, and for the reforestation of forests. The goal is to make nature more resistant to droughts, floods and heatwaves. Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke described the decision as a clear signal for the restoration of nature. This was enormously important and would give momentum to negotiations with the European Parliament. "This is a decisive step towards maintaining and restoring intact nature in Europe," said the Green politician. She was very confident that further concerns of some member states could be "cleared up" and that "this strong signal will also be noticed by the EU Parliament", said Lemke.

The environmental organization WWF welcomed the agreement as "groundbreaking". Without the law, the EU would not be able to achieve its climate targets and Germany would miss its obligations under the Montreal World Nature Agreement, said conservation spokesman Tobias Arbinger. However, WWF criticized agreed exceptions. For example, the restoration target should not apply to marine areas with "soft sediment" in order not to affect fishermen.

Resistance from Christian Democrats

Christian Democrats in the European Parliament had vehemently criticized the planned law. The use of agricultural land would be restricted, endangering food security. In the Environment Committee, the Christian Democrats had tried unsuccessfully to scrap the law altogether last week, only narrowly failing. The vote was interrupted.

The co-chairman of the Left in the European Parliament, Martin Schirdewan, criticized the Christian Democrats' approach as a "painful campaign of lies". The parliament and EU countries now have to negotiate a final compromise. However, the parliament must first agree on its negotiating position. EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius expressed optimism that negotiations on the law could be concluded by the end of the year. At the moment, however, it is unclear whether the law can be passed before the 2024 European elections.

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