Nature Restoration Law approved in the European Parliament

On Wednesday 12 July 2023, the European Parliament adopted one of the most important dossiers of the European Green Deal: the Nature Restoration Law, whose main objective is to restore ecosystems and biodiversity in the European Union. The final report was adopted with 336 votes in favour, 300 against and 13 abstentions after the vote on the first amendment to reject the Commission’s proposal (312 votes in favour, 324 against and 12 abstentions). A very adjusted result and one that reflects the difficult negotiations that were complicated from the outset in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, where the report was rejected with a 44-44 tie.

The reason lies in the boycott organised by the leader of the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber, and imposed on the rest of the party. The People’s Party decided to oppose the agreement reached in the Environment Committee and began a political campaign to reject the Commission’s proposal on the premise that the law would threaten EU food security and undermine the economic activity of farmers and fishermen. These false claims were soon denied on numerous occasions by the European Commission itself, by the scientific community, by environmental organisations, by young activists concerned about their future and even by the business sector. In the end, scientific evidence showed that restoring degraded ecosystems, reversing the loss of biodiversity and improving soil quality is beneficial for everyone, by ensuring the productive capacity of agricultural land and thus Europe’s long-term food security.

Despite the constant refusal of the European People’s Party, allied with the conservatives and the extreme right to prevent this legislation from going ahead, it is worth highlighting the tireless negotiating and conciliatory effort made by our Group of Socialists and Democrats to bring together the voices of all the political groups and achieve a balanced report acceptable to all parties. In addition, we have made significant achievements in the final report following the amendments adopted in plenary.

The report adopted in Parliament stipulates that Member States should implement restoration measures by 2030 in at least 20% of the EU’s land and marine areas, and by 2050 in all ecosystems in need of restoration. In addition, Member States should contribute to achieving the EU target of planting at least three billion additional trees by 2030 and should, by 2030 at the latest, improve pollinator diversity and reverse the decline of pollinator populations. The report also reinforces the implementation of measures to restore marine ecosystems; and requires the Commission to submit a report to the European Parliament and the Council containing, inter alia, proposals for appropriate additional measures, including financial measures to fill identified gaps such as the creation of a specific instrument.

Although the proposal is not as ambitious as the Socialists and Democrats Group would have liked, a lot of hard work has been done to prevent the right-wing and far-right bloc from rejecting this law outright and thus slowing down the progress of one of the most important pieces of legislation in the European Green Deal. Our priority commitment to the fight against climate change and to an ecological and just transition cannot wait any longer. Taking this law forward is therefore a victory for Europe’s social democrats. The report’s rapporteur, socialist colleague César Luena, has already made it clear that he will do his utmost to regain the ambition lost with the right-wing amendments during the tripartite negotiations between the Commission, the EU Council and the Parliament, with the intention of reaching an agreement by the end of this year.

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