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Irish MEPs Impact Key Vote on Nature Restoration Law in Europe

MEP Grace O’Sullivan had been leading the fight to ensure a Nature Restoration Law would be progressed in the European Parliament. 

Irish MEPs made a key difference on a recent vote in the European Parliament to progress the much-debated Nature Restoration Law. A dramatic last minute shift meant MEPs defeated an attempt by the conservative EPP Group – of which Fine Gael are members –  to reject the legislation outright by 324 votes to 312. Ireland has 13 MEPs elected to the Parliament, of which 5 are elected from Ireland South. A swing of just 7 votes on the initial rejection vote would have placed the file in limbo – a non-passing of legislation in the Parliament is a highly unusual event. 

The Nature Restoration Law has been proposed in an attempt to return many of Europe’s damaged habitats and ecosystems to favourable status in the coming decades. The positive result triggers the final stage of negotiations between representatives of the EU countries, the European Parliament, and the European Commission.  

Following the vote in Strasbourg, Ireland South MEP Grace O’Sullivan said: “We have successfully fought off an attack on nature from Manfred Weber and the EPP. All Irish MEPs voted in favour of the Nature Restoration Law and this is the direct result of having Greens in government and in the European Parliament. The Nature Restoration Law is now an inevitability and this is nothing short of a win for every person and place on the whole continent. We are all breathing a big sigh of relief today. Tomorrow we get back to work on negotiations with the Commission and Council.”

MEPs also voted in favour of a standalone EU fund to back the measures and aligned the Parliament’s position to that of a majority of EU governments. The revised position weakened some elements of the Commission’s original proposal but signals support for significant measures to protect and restore damaged habitats and ecosystems in Europe. 

Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg joined Green MEPs for a demonstration at the European Parliament over the course of the week, saying that a vote against the Nature Restoration law would be a ‘betrayal’ of future generations. 

The Nature Restoration Law proposes to restore at least 20% of all EU land and sea areas to favourable status by 2030 with specific targets for various ecosystems. The proposal had come under fire from Manfred Weber’s conservative EPP Group, who have sought to bury all new environmental legislation as they come under pressure from the far-right in some EU countries.

The legislation includes, among other measures, the restoration of all damaged  marine habitats (over 80% of which are in unfavourable status in Ireland), restrictions on shrinking urban green space, the voluntary rewetting of drained peatlands and the restoration of 25,000km of blocked rivers to free-flowing status. 

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