MEPs vote in law binding member states to restore degraded EU ecosystems

EPP votes against nature restoration deal, but Nationalist MEP David Casa breaks ranks

EU member states will have to restore to a good condition at least 20% of the EU’s degraded land and sea ecosystems by 2030.

The EU nature restoration law will help achieve the EU’s climate and biodiversity objectives and enhance food security, with member states having to restore at least 30% of habitats from a poor to a good condition by 2030, increasing to 60% by 2040, and 90% by 2050.

The deal agreed with member states, was adopted with 329 votes in favour, 275 against and 24 abstentions.

The EPP in its majority vote against the law, but Nationalist MEP David Casa broke ranks to vote in favour.

Priority will be given to Natura 2000 areas until 2030. Once in a good condition, EU countries shall ensure an area does not significantly deteriorate. Member states will also have to adopt national restoration plans detailing how they intend to achieve these targets.

“Today is an important day for Europe, as we move from protecting and conserving nature to restoring it” said Spanish MEP César Luena (S&D).

“The new law will also help us fulfil many of our international environmental commitments. The regulation will restore degraded ecosystems while respecting the agricultural sector by giving flexibility to member states. I would like to thank scientists for providing the scientific evidence and fighting climate denial and young people for reminding us that there is no planet B, nor plan B.”

EU countries will have to make progress in two of the following three indicators: the grassland butterfly index; the share of agricultural land with high-diversity landscape features; and the stock of organic carbon in cropland mineral soil.

Measures to increase the common farmland bird index must also be taken as birds are good indicators of the overall state of biodiversity.

The law provides for an emergency brake, as requested by Parliament, so targets for agricultural ecosystems can be suspended under exceptional circumstances if they severely reduce the land needed for sufficient food production for EU consumption.

With over 80% of European habitats are in poor shape, the European Commission proposed on 22 June 2022 a nature restoration law to contribute to the long-term recovery of damaged nature across the EU’s land and sea areas.

According to the Commission, the new law would bring significant economic benefits, as every euro invested would result in at least €8 in benefits.

Another directive adopted with 499 votes in favour, 100 against and 23 abstentions, will also update a list of criminal offences including illegal timber trade, depletion of water resources, serious breaches of EU chemicals legislation and pollution caused by ships.

Environmental crimes committed by individuals and company representatives would be punishable with imprisonment depending on how long-lasting, severe or reversible the damage is.

Qualified offences could be punished with eight years, those causing the death of a person with ten years in prison and the other offences with up to five years of imprisonment.

All offenders would be required to reinstate the damaged environment and compensate for it. They might also face fines. For companies the fines will reach 3 or 5% of their yearly worldwide turnover or alternatively €24-€40 million depending on the nature of the crime.

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