Energy & Environment

Parliament greenlights Nature Restoration Law

July 2023
By Editorial Staff

In a hard-fought vote held on Wednesday, the European Parliament adopted its position on the EU Nature Restoration Law, despite strenuous opposition from the right-wing groups European People’s Party (EPP), European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID), also supported by some MEPs from the liberal Renew Europe (RE). The closely contested vote outcome highlights the significance of the legislation and the divisive nature of the discussions surrounding it.

The Nature Restoration Law falls under the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, a central element of the European Green Deal. The proposal tabled by the Commission in June 2022 aims to address the deteriorating state of Europe’s ecosystems by implementing legally-binding targets for nature restoration in EU member states. The law’s scope is extensive, covering a wide range of measures to revive and protect natural habitats, including forests, wetlands, and marine areas. By setting ambitious restoration goals, the legislation seeks to reverse the alarming decline in biodiversity and combat the impacts of climate change.

The proposal was referred to the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) and to associated Committees on Agriculture and on Fisheries, which called for its rejection previously this year. As the rejection did not pass in the ENVI Committee (a tie vote), the decision fell to the plenary.

Leading up to the vote, the EPP conducted a vigorous campaign against the law, raising concerns over potential repercussions for various industries, particularly agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. EPP MEPs argued that the legislation would harm food production, threaten livelihoods, and hinder the development of renewable energy projects. However, proponents of the law, including other political groups and stakeholders, dismissed these claims, emphasizing the urgent need to address biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change through concerted restoration efforts.

The parliamentary vote revealed a deeply divided Parliament, with the outcome in the balance until the very last moment. In the end, the motion to reject the proposal fell short of 12 votes, and the law was passed with 336 votes in favour, 300 against, and 13 abstentions. The political implications of the vote are far-reaching. EPP’s staunch opposition to the legislation, despite Commission President von der Leyen’s support, has exposed internal divisions within the party and raised questions about its unity in view whose consequences are yet to be seen, especially with a view to the upcoming European elections.

Besides, the approval of the EU Nature Restoration Law is considered a significant milestone for Europe’s environmental agenda, aligned with the overarching objectives of the European Green Deal championed by President Ursula von der Leyen. Wednesday’s vote demonstrates European Parliament’s commitment to address pressing environmental challenges and ensure a sustainable future for the continent, as well as representing a win for the Executive itself.

Following the approval by the Parliament, negotiations with the Council can now begin, with the aim to reach an agreement on a final text as soon as possible. The Spanish presidency of the Council has already indicated its commitment to prioritise the file, signalling potential progress in implementing the law at the European level.

Executive Vice-President Timmermans, who is responsible for the Green Deal and one of the major advocates for the law, expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the vote, declaring himself optimistic that an agreement can be finalized within a few months. The real challenge will now be to effectively implement the law and ensure that Member States meet the ambitious restoration targets. This will require close collaboration, adequate funding, and robust monitoring mechanisms to track progress and address potential obstacles.