European Parliament Adopts a Weakened Nature Restoration Law – next step Trilogue

a happy César Luena S&D group celebrates the rejection of the rejection amendment of the Nature Restoration Law. Luena is the ENVI rapporteur which leads on the file.

The Nature Restoration Law (NRL) has survived the European Parliament’s Plenary vote today, Though the Parliament adopted a significantly weaker NRL, the Council’s position is more environmental ambitious – and the Council tends to have the upper hand in these negotiations. This augers well for the NRL coming into force. Oliver Moore (Updated 23.30 CET and 15.40 CET on 13/07/23 with Parliament’s adopted text added)

What happened?

The Nature Restoration Law (NRL) has survived the European Parliament’s Plenary vote today, where a rejection of the entire file was the first of 134 amendments to be voted on. However by 324 to 310, the rejection amendment was itself rejected.

Following the final vote of the session, Environment Committee (ENVI) will represent the Parliament in negotiations with the Council of Ministers. This means the Nature Restoration Law will continue its path towards implementation.

The opening and closing votes were key, as these have allowed the legislative train to keep moving. For this to happen, a small number of rebel EPP MEPs switched sides, while a majority of Renew voted to keep the NRL.  The gap – 12 votes  – means that there was just a tiny number of  swing votes to decide whether the NRL would survive or fall.

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NEW! access the established positions on Nature Restoration law of the Commission, Council and Parliament here

NRL text adopted by European Parliament 12th July 2023

NRL Council “general approach” as adopted 20th June 2023

NRL original proposal by the European Commission 22nd June 2022

NRL overall procedure file page on Parliament’s website 

What’s next?

As the final vote today elected to send the file back to ENVI to begin the next stage of negotiations – trilogues  – this means that the Council and Parliament will come to a final, negotiated position. Though called trilogues, in effect the Commission has little to do with this stage of co-legislation –  unless it decides to withdraw the entire thing, which is highly unlikely. 

Typically, the Council’s position has been the more dominant in these post-plenary negotiations, though this is no typical file. However it is also the case that it is the ENVI committee rapporteur negotiating on behalf of the Parliament is César Luena (pictured above) with shadows such as Mick Wallace (below) also playing a role. 

Mick Wallace EP Plenary session – Nature Restoration Law Eric VIDAL © European Union 2023

So even with some very serious weakening of the NRL – as can be seen in many of the  amendments below  – these will not be the final positions brought into law. This is because a compromise between today’s version of the NRL as amended, and the Council’s general position, is what we will end up with. Here is the Council’s general position  and a summary article of it is below.

The Council’s position is more environmentally ambitious than an initial reading of the Parliament’s position as adopted today suggests. So overall, while today may seem like a day of mixed messages, in the long course of the progression of legislation, it marks a step towards having a Nature Restoration Law, and one that will in the end be more ambitious than the Parliament’s weak position.

Big Step Forward for Nature Restoration Law – Council of Ministers Agrees its Position

In more detail

A number of amendments which passed today certainly weaken the environmental ambition of the Parliament’s position in the negotiations. Some of the standout ones include the complete deletion of article 9 on restoration of agricultural systems (including the contentious rewetting targets as well as biodiversity indicators as per annex IV); dropping article 16 on Access to Justice (amend 44); amendment 136 would delay implementation of the NRL until the Commission provides more data (amends 135 and 136, pertaining to Article 23) – this too was adopted. An amendment to postpone targets due to socioeconomic reasons was also adopted (amend 131).

Find all amendments here 

On funding there were two main amendments, one rejected one adopted.  what was arguably the stronger amendment – 84 – was rejected. This is another peculiarity of this voting session today.  Compare these two amendments: Amendment 84 stated that “when implementing this Regulation, Member States shall make use of financial resources from appropriate sources, including Union funds, to finance restoration actions.”

It went on to add that within 24 months of implementation the Commission “shall assess any gap between restoration funding needs and the available Union funding necessary” including “in particular through the establishment of a permanent dedicated nature restoration fund” within the ceiling of the multiannual financial framework (MFF). It further added that the European Investment Bank shall work with public and private funds to enable this, adding that the Commission shall also ensure effective mainstreaming of biodiversity measures “across all relevant Union programmes”. (bold emphasis added)

However amendment 11 was adopted, which states that within 12 months of the entry into force of the Regulation, the Commission shall outline in a report funding the availability, funding needs and gaps for implementation, including for compensation measures for landowners and extra measures. While the reference to compensation is welcome, the reference to actually creating the funding is weaker –  “where appropriate, proposals for adequate additional measures, including financial measures to address the gaps identified, such as the establishment of a dedicated instrument and without prejudging the prerogatives of co-legislators for the adoption of the multiannual financial framework post 2027.

Both would have helped assuage fears over finance – but amendment 84 is more committed.

BITEAU, Benoît (Greens/EFA) EP Plenary session – Nature restoration. Eric VIDAL © European Union 2023

Conclusion

It is unusual for the Parliament to approach trilogue with a position environmentally weaker than the Council’s. But again, this is no ordinary file. 

Today was another bruising day in the legislative journey of the Nature Restoration Law. It was very much a day of progress and loss, but also, crucially, complete derailment was avoided. Moreover, the Council position is stronger – and the Council is too in reality. This means that, for example, a compromise will have to be found between complete deletion of Article 9 and the Council’s position on Article 9. This is unlikely to be complete deletion, especially as the weaker institution holds the position of deletion. Similarly for financing, subject to such understandable focus in recent weeks.

Time will tell as the process unfolds. But importantly, there still is a process.

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About Oliver Moore 208 Articles

Dr. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC.

A propos d'Oliver Moore
Oliver voyage beaucoup moins qu’auparavant, pour ce qui concerne son activité professionnelle. Il peut néanmoins admirer par la fenêtre de son bureau les mésanges charbonnières et les corbeaux perchés au sommet du saule dans le jardin de sa maison au cœur de l’écovillage de Cloughjordan, en Irlande. L’écovillage est un site de 67 acres dans le nord du Tipperary. Il comprend d’espaces boisés, des paysages comestibles, des lieux de vie, d’habitation et de travail, ainsi qu’une ferme appartenant à la communauté. Les jours où il travaille dans le bureau du centre d’entreprise communautaire, il profite d’une vue sur les chevaux, les panneaux solaires, les toilettes sèches et les jardins familiaux. 

Ce bureau au sein de l’écovillage constitue en effet un tiers-lieu de travail accueillant également des collaborateurs des associations Cultivate et Ecolise, ainsi qu’un laboratoire de fabrication (« fab lab »). 

Oliver est membre du conseil d’administration de la ferme communautaire (pour la seconde fois !) et donne également des cours sur le Master en coopératives, agroalimentaire et développement durable à l’University College Cork. Il a une formation en sociologie rurale : son doctorat et les articles qu’il publie dans des journaux scientifiques portent sur ce domaine au sens large.

Il consacre la majorité de son temps de travail à l’ARC 2020. Il collabore avec ARC depuis 2013, date à laquelle l’Irlande a assuré la présidence de l’UE pendant six mois. C’est là qu’il a pu constater l’importance de la politique agroalimentaire et rurale grâce à sa chronique hebdomadaire sur le site d’ARC. Après six mois, il est nommé rédacteur en chef et responsable de la communication, poste qu’il occupe toujours aujourd’hui. Oliver supervise le contenu du site web et des médias sociaux, aide à définir l’orientation de l’organisation et parfois même rédige un article pour le site web. 

À l’époque où on voyageait davantage, il a eu la chance de passer du temps sous les tropiques, où il a aidé des ONG irlandaises de commerce équitable – au Ghana, au Kenya, au Mali, en Inde et au Salvador – à raconter leur histoire.

Il se peut que ces jours-là reviennent. Pour son compte Oliver continuera de préférer naviguer en Europe par bateau, puis en train. Après tout, la France n’est qu’à une nuit de navigation. En attendant, il y a toujours de nombreuses possibilités de bénévolat dans la communauté dans les campagnes du centre de l’Irlande.