Landmark EU Nature Restoration Law on the Homestretch

Nature Restoration Law Protest May 31st 2023. Photo (c) Kevin Handy

The European Parliament’s environment committee has given its blessing on the final shape of the EU’s nature restoration law, moving it one step closer to sealing a final deal on the landmark law once and for all. How did we get to here? What happened in the environment committee? And what’s next? Natasha Foote reports. (updated to include link to agreed NRL text in full)

What happened

The European Parliament’s environment committee has given its blessing on the final shape of the EU’s nature restoration law, moving it one step closer to sealing a final deal on the landmark law once and for all. The vote passed today 53-28-4, leaving the Parliament’s plenary and then EU member states still to give a final approval.

The notorious Nature Restoration Law (NRL), proposed in June 2022, aims to reverse the drastic decline of Europe’s nature, with the ambition to restore 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

But, after a concerted pushback from the right of the Parliament and farming groups over several provisions related to the restoration of agricultural systems, it was touch and go whether the law would ever see the light of day.

(See all our nature restoration law articles at the end of this article) 

Read/download the agreed post-trilogue NRL text  

Reactions

For Green MEP Jutta Paulus, one of the negotiators on the EU nature restoration law, the outcome of the vote is a “ray of hope for Europe’s nature”.

“The world’s first law to save nature clears the penultimate hurdle in the fight against species extinction in Europe,” she said. 

Likewise, the socialists welcomed the “historic” vote, calling it one of the “most crucial pieces of legislation” within the scope of the nature-related Green Deal files.

The outcome follows months of intense campaigning around the first-ever EU law to restore ecosystems, which mobilised thousands of scientists, as well as hundreds of businesses, NGOs and climate activists to fight for the law. Meanwhile, over a million signatures and messages from citizens urged the EU to deliver on the law. 

After an uphill battle to save the law, which saw a considerable watering down of many of the provisions in the process, it survived a Parliament vote by the skin of its teeth. 

EU lawmakers then launched interinstitutional negotiations on the file, managing to strike an agreement earlier this month. This agreement retained specific requirements to increase nature on farmlands, as well as restore peatlands, albeit with more exemptions and caveats  than originally envisaged in the Commission’s proposal. 

For the RestoreNature coalition, comprising green campaign groups led by BirdLife Europe, ClientEarth, European Environmental Bureau, and WWF EU, it is “encouraging” to see how the support for the law has “grown since an agreement was struck”.

“The environment committee has now shown its clear commitment to get this law ready before the next European elections,” the coalition said. 

However, they noted it is “still disappointing” to see some MEPs “not willing to protect Europe and its citizens from the devastating impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss”.

Despite the fact the committee vote passed 53-28-4, the voting results show that a significant number of MEPs from the far right and centre-right of the political spectrum chose to vote against the law. 

As such, they urged the Parliament’s full house to “follow suit and vote ‘yes’” on the law. 

However, the result is unlikely to please EU farmers’ association Copa-Cogeca, who have waged a sustained campaign against the law, which they have previously called “ill-thought out, unrealistic, and unimplementable”, warning it “endangers farmers and fishers’ livelihoods and food production in the EU”. 

The main bones of contention for the agri lobby group included compensation measures for landowners and whether to use the budget of the EU’s farming subsidies policy for restoration efforts.

However there was no press statement from Copa-Cogeca, though the organisation did find time to release a statement on the Industry Emissions Directive agreement between the Parliament and Council today, which saw cattle excluded.

What next?

To conclude the legislative process, the law will need to be approved in the European Parliament’s plenary, tentatively scheduled for the Strasbourg plenary session on 26-29 February 2024. 

EU countries, who will be in charge of implementing the law, will also need to give one last formal approval, but as the text already got a green light from EU member states earlier this month, this will be more of a formality.

The centre-right EPP group, which saw its Committee members split 8-12-2, has been unusually quiet on the matter, with no statement or message on X (formerly twitter) on the day. Like Copa-Cogeca, it found time to release a statement on the Industry Emissions Directive today however.

Socialist MEP César Luena, the Parliament’s chief negotiator on the file, pointed out that the vote “secured more conservative votes than in previous occasions”, though “not as many as we anticipate in the upcoming plenary vote”. 

As such, ahead of the upcoming plenary vote, the rapporteur urged all MEPs to “consider the lasting impact they will leave for future generations and to support the passage of this law in the upcoming plenary,” calling on them to “honour the commitment made”.

However, the Green’s Paulus said she expects a “solid majority” in the plenary vote, celebrating the fact that many in the centre-right have changed their tune on the file.

More

Nature Restoration Law Emerges from Trilogue – What’s Changed?

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

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

Nature Restoration Law | No, 10% of land will NOT be abandoned under NRL

Nature Restoration Law: A Chance for the EU to Make Good on the Green Deal

The process in detail

ENVI Committee Votes Down Nature Restoration Law Report – what happened and what’s next?

Nature Restoration Law avoids rejection in Parliament’s Environment Committee – what’s next?

Nature Restoration Law News – Environment Committee Edging Towards Deal as EPP walks out

Agri MEPs Vote to Reject the Nature Restoration Law – what’s next?

Nature Restoration Law | Agri Committee’s Amendments Revealed – Reduced Targets, Increase Exemptions

EPP Attacks Pesticide Regulation & the Nature Restoration Law

 

 

 

About Natasha Foote 40 Articles

Natasha is a freelance journalist, podcaster and moderator specialising in EU agrifood policy. She previously worked as an agrifood journalist with the EU media EURACTIV, and before that spent several years working on farms around Europe to learn more about the realities for farmers on the ground. Natasha holds a Master’s degree in Environment, Development and Policy with distinction from the University of Sussex, where she worked on food issues and alternative approaches to food production.