'A slap in the face': EU biodiversity regulation held back by right-wing MEPs

'A slap in the face': EU biodiversity regulation held back by right-wing MEPs
Credit: Belga

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in the agriculture and fisheries committees voted against a climate law that aims to restore nature across the continent.

For environmental groups and Greens/EFA MEPs, the opposing votes in the Agriculture and Fisheries Committees amount to a denial of the effects of climate change.

"At times when Italy is devastated by flooding and Spain is experiencing severe droughts, this denial of what is happening in Europe is unacceptable, " said Sabien Leemans, WWF Senior Policy Officer at WWF Europe, in response to Tuesday's vote in the Agriculture Committee. Leemans said that nature restoration is scientifically proven to increase food security and resilience to natural disasters.

The conservative European People's Party (EPP), on the other hand, has called on the European Commission to withdraw the law, saying that the committee votes show that the proposal "only increases costs and insecurities for farmers." The group argues that there are sufficient regulations on nature restoration already in existence.

Earlier this month, the EPP voiced opposition to the proposal and other green regulations. The party claims that agricultural land and food production would be drastically cut down by the restoration proposal.

"The EPP and Renew are playing party politics at the expense of nature and farmers," said Green German MEP Jutta Paulus in a statement. "The unholy coalition of EPP, Renew and far right-wing populists and extremists cannot be allowed to further undermine the European Green Deal."

Key biodiversity measure

The nature restoration legislation would be the first to set legally binding targets for Member States to redeem damaged habitats and species. The goal is to cover at least 20% of the EU's land and sea areas with protection measures by 2030, with a €100 billion budget earmarked for Member States.

The restoration law is the centrepiece of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and aims to reverse the damage of climate change, as well as to restore habitats to best capture and store carbon emissions. The EU claims that every 1 invested into nature restoration can create up to €38 in benefits, in terms of climate change mitigation.

"In the face of the biodiversity and climate crises, the vote today is a slap in the face to citizens, coastal communities and businesses," said John Condon, Marine Conservation Lawyer at ClientEarth, in a statement on Wednesday's vote in the Fisheries Committee. "Restoring the ocean isn’t just ‘nice to have’, but fundamental for creating a healthy and stable environment in which we can all live and thrive."

The committee votes has not invalidated the proposal, but reflects on growing opposition to it, which also includes Belgian politicians.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said he would like to see the proposal "put on pause", drawing heavy criticism from his own government. Two weeks earlier, the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V – EPP) also suggested that the Flemish regional administration should collaborate with the Netherlands and Denmark to oppose the law.

The lead committee for the proposal, the environmental committee, is expected to vote on the Nature Restoration Law on 15 June and the final vote in the Parliament will occur in July, according to EUObserver.

Related News

Socialist MEP Clara Aguilera told Euractiv that the vote in the plenary of the Parliament may look a lot like what happened in the agriculture committee, but that the liberal Renew group has the possibility to make the difference.

Earlier this month, Politico reported that the Renew group is split down the middle on nature restoration, but Renew member Pascal Canfin hinted to Euractiv that they are leaning more towards the EPP position.

Copyright © 2024 The Brussels Times. All Rights Reserved.