European Parliament agrees to a weakened Nature Restoration Law

July 31, 2023
AgricultureFarmland birdsPolicy and Advocacy

On 12th July, the European Parliament voted in favour of the Nature Restoration Law and the EU Green Deal, despite an unprecedented – and often outright absurd – disinformation campaign aiming to destroy it, led by conservative and right-wing politicians and agriculture and fisheries lobbies.

This win, however, came at a very high cost. To reach a compromise, MEPs sacrificed many critical obligations and targets, ending up with a position substantially weaker than the original Commission proposal. They significantly weakened the ambition level of the legal proposal, in particular for the marine, peatland and forest restoration targets. This flies in the face of the urgency of the climate and biodiversity crises.

In particular, the Parliament’s position scrapped the proposed article on the restoration of agricultural lands, which includes peatland restoration, thereby foregoing an essential lever for increasing Europe’s ability to sequester carbon and addressing intensive agriculture as the main driver for biodiversity loss. In addition, the Parliament adopted an amendment which would delay the implementation of the law until an assessment of the law on Europe’s food security has been conducted, responding to the scare-mongering campaign conducted by the EPP as well as the far-right groups. A further element of weakening is the removal of the article guaranteeing the fundamental right of access to justice, risking more violations of the Aarhus Convention and an uneven playing field across Member States. The text also contains multiple other weakening derogations and exemptions.

yellowhammer-with-insect-food-in-beakYellowhammer: a farmland bird in steep decline in Ireland
(Photo: Colum Clarke)

Oonagh Duggan Head of Advocacy at BirdWatch Ireland said, “Recent headlines have been filled with record breaking global temperatures, extreme flooding events and fears about crop yields. Today we welcome that the European Parliament voted to keep alive the proposed Nature Restoration Law, but at the same time it has been weakened significantly. This law would help us all mitigate and adapt to climate breakdown and especially farmers producing our food.

“It is really alarming, therefore, to see that the provisions to restore farmland biodiversity and peatlands were removed completely from the proposed law. Consistently we have heard farmers say they don’t trust government to support them financially to protect and restore nature and to make the changes needed on climate that doesn’t threaten their livelihoods. This confidence must be restored and farmers must be engaged with on the risks to farming itself from climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.

Farmland birds are the group of birds declining the fastest, with even recently common birds like the Kestrel having suffered a 28% decline between 2006-2016. We have to hope that the next step in the negotiations will restore critical provisions to help farmland birds, pollinators and peatlands.”

The vote followed strong public mobilisation to defend the law and the integrity of the EU Green Deal and cut through the fake news, with over a million signatures and messages from citizens, repeated calls from 6,000 scientists, 100+ businesses and civil society from across numerous sectors to support the Nature Restoration Law.

We are now calling on all EU institutions to make constructive use of the trialogue negotiations to ensure a final law that is fit for addressing the global climate and biodiversity emergency.