Centre-right MEPs vote down Nature Restoration Law

EPP lawmakers round up coalition against nature restoration law to turn degraded habitats into natural state by 2030

EPP leader Manfred Weber
EPP leader Manfred Weber

The European Parliament’s environment committee on Tuesday voted down an amended version of the Nature Restoration Law.

The legislation, which seeks to reverse biodiversity loss by rehabilitating Europe’s degraded land and sea areas, has become the object of relentless criticism by conservative parties.

The controversial Nature Restoration Regulation aims at putting least 20% of the Union’s degraded habitats back into a good natural state by 2030.

The environment committee of 88 MEPs today were tied, 44 votes in favour and 44 against, on the final amended legislation. The tie means the amended law has been rejected, and that the next vote in plenary will move to reject the Commission’s original proposal.

In a previous meeting of the environment committee, the centre-right European People’s Party failed to reject the legislative proposal entirely from the start, with a tied vote of 44 in favour and 44 against.

This disallowed the EPP from killing the bill immediately, taking the committee into a three-hour voting marathon on 2,500 amendments to the bill. The meeting ran out of time and had to be postponed to the 27 June, before it goes to the vote in the full plenary in July.

The legislation will be sent to plenary in its original form, as proposed by the European Commission, with a recommendation to be scrapped in its entirety. The decisive vote is expected to be held in the week of 10 July.

The law sets a target for vegetation that supports biodiversity to cover 10% of the EU’s farming territory by 2030 – which would force the reconversion of some arable land into forests, orchards or ditches. But EPP chief Manfred Weber has led the charge against the law, arguing that it leads to lower food production. Farmers also staged a protest in Brussels.

The EPP managed to win the backing of other right-wing parties and parts of the liberal Renew Europe group in the ENVI vote.

The claims put forward by the conservatives have been contested by progressive parties, environmental NGOs, climate scientists and the renewable energy industry, which argue nature restoration and economic activity are two compatible goals that can thrive side by side.

“Nature lost a battle today, but we will continue fighting in plenary,” said César Luena, the socialist MEP who serves as the law’s rapporteur. “It’s high time to focus on reversing biodiversity loss rather than these political games.”

Luena called on Weber to “come to his senses” and stop his “personal crusade” against European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, whose green agenda has put her at odds with her fellow EPP members.

“It’s a disgrace that politicians and lobbyists have spread the lie that nature and farming are somehow in conflict – the whole parliament must ignore that nonsense and vote to restore Europe’s precious nature,” Greenpeace said in reaction to Tuesday’s session.

The law sets out legally binding targets and obligations for nature restoration in specific areas, including agricultural land, forests, marine and freshwater areas, and urban ecosystems.

According to the agreed text, each EU country will need to roll out restoration measures for at least 30% of threatened habitats in terrestrial, coastal, freshwater and marine ecosystems by 2030.

This will apply to 30% of the total habitat area in need of restoration, rather than per area for every habitat group as proposed by the European Commission.

This proportion will increase to 60% by 2040, and 90% by 2050.