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Key Nature Restoration Law Vote Pushed Out at Last Minute

The landmark legislation, which sets binding targets to halt the collapse in biodiversity has been delayed by the Chair of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee as its future was put into question by the conservative EPP Group. 

The European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety today (15 June) has pushed out the final vote of the Committee on the Nature Restoration Law, which aims to return the majority of Europe’s damaged habitats and ecosystems to favourable status in the coming decades.

While an initial rejection amendment failed to pass in a 44-44 tie vote, a series of compromise amendments – designed to make the voting process more effective – also failed to pass with a majority, leading to over 3 hours of voting on individual amendments. Time ran out on the Committee as MEPs were then due to vote in the Strasbourg plenary chamber. 

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 conservative MEPs who tabled an amendment to reject the proposal outright, while MEPs from the Greens and Socialists said it was one the EU’s last hopes to halt biodiversity loss and save European agriculture. 

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. The Committee’s proposal also called on the Commission to consider a standalone EU Fund to back the measures. 

MEP for Ireland South Grace O’Sullivan, who voted on the Nature Restoration Law proposal today in the Environment Committee, said: “Supporting and implementing the Nature Restoration Law was a direct recommendation of the recent Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, you cannot get a more robust and democratic endorsement for legislation than that. I’m disappointed that many politicians continue to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the immediate need for action on climate change and biodiversity loss. If we want to save our natural heritage in Ireland and beyond we need to vote on this now.” 

Green Party MEP for Dublin, Ciarán Cuffe said: “Climate and biodiversity are two sides of the same coin: we must tackle them both together. We rely on strong ecosystems for food production and to absorb carbon or mitigate heat to keep emissions down and protect against drought and other natural disasters. That’s why by protecting nature, we protect ourselves, and the Nature Restoration Law helps us to do that. For the sake of everyone living in Europe, I urge my Irish colleagues to show leadership and lobby their groups to support this vital law the next time this comes before the European Parliament.”

The new date for the vote in the Environment Committee will be 27th June. After the vote in Committee, the Nature Restoration Law will be voted on by the entire European Parliament in July. Following this, negotiations will begin between the three institutions of the European Union before final  implementation. 

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