European Parliament Rejected the New EU Law on Restoration of Ecosystems
If the Europen Parliament will confirm the vote in July, Commissioner Frans Timmermans’ proposal must be withdrawn and eventualy reformulated to take into account the concerns expressed with today’s vote in Brussels.
Brussels, 28 June 2023 – 6 MINUTES READ
After the president of the EP committee on Environment had in his own way prudently postponed the vote in recent weeks for fear of a rejection of the legislative provision, last Tuesday, under pressure from centre-right groups, he had to schedule the vote. And the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, unusually full of MEPs voted against on Commissioner Timmermans’ proposal for new European rules to restore ecosystems. The significant presence of the EPP and right-wing parties was to reject the proposal, while the entire left-wing wing of parliamentary groups came to support the environmental push of the Dutch Commissioner.
More than 2,300 amendments were submitted by all political groups. Those from the right-wing and EPP aimed to reduce the impact on the economy of the Commission’s proposed measures, while those from the left-wing and Greens aimed to strengthen the environmental preservation measures proposed by the Brussels executive.
The content of Commissioner Timmermans
The proposed Nature Restoration Regulation under the EU’s Single Market Programme aimed to establish rules at the EU level for the restoration of ecosystems, with the goal of achieving biodiverse and resilient nature throughout the EU. The regulation recognized the alarming rate of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, which have negative impacts on people, the economy, and the climate. The EU has previously fallen short of its voluntary target to restore 15% of degraded ecosystems by 2020.
In response to the urgent need for action, the proposed regulation sets out targets and obligations for the restoration of various ecosystems on land and at sea. It expands beyond existing legislation and covers all ecosystems, not just those protected under the Habitats Directive and Natura 2000 areas. The regulation aimed to put all natural and semi-natural ecosystems on the path to recovery by 2030.
Specific provisions of the proposed Regulation included restoration targets for terrestrial, coastal, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. It also mandated no net loss and the development of urban green spaces, as well as the removal of obstacles in rivers to restore their natural flow. The decline of pollinators should be reversed, and indicators important for biodiversity in agricultural and forest ecosystems should show upward trends, claimed the Commission.
The proposal outlined requirements for Member States’ national restoration plans, which should be based on the best available scientific evidence. The Commission estimated that the benefits of ecosystem restoration, including peatlands, forests, rivers, and coastal wetlands, could amount to approximately EUR 1,860 billion, outweighing the estimated costs of around EUR 154 billion. The restoration of marine and urban ecosystems, as well as pollinator restoration, was also expected to bring significant benefits.
The proposed Nature Restoration Regulation aligned with the EU’s commitment to reversing biodiversity loss and restoring nature. It sets ambitious targets for ecosystem restoration and emphasizes the importance of scientific evidence and strategic planning to maximize the effectiveness of restoration measures. By implementing this regulation, the EU aimed to contribute to global biodiversity goals and ensure the resilience of ecosystems and food systems.
What are the measures provided for in the proposed Regulation?
The proposed Regulation on nature restoration includes several concrete measures to achieve the objectives of halting biodiversity loss and restoring ecosystems. Some of the key measures outlined in the proposal are:
1. Binding Restoration Targets: The regulation sets binding restoration targets for Member States to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030. This includes specific targets for different ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, rivers, and marine habitats. The targets aim to bring these ecosystems back to a healthy and resilient state.
2. National Restoration Plans: Member States are required to develop and implement national restoration plans that outline specific actions and measures to achieve the restoration targets. These plans will be prepared in collaboration with stakeholders and will provide a roadmap for the restoration efforts at the national level.
3. Funding and Support: The proposal recognizes the need for financial support to implement restoration activities. It encourages Member States to use existing funding mechanisms such as the Common Agricultural Policy, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and the European Regional Development Fund to support nature restoration. Additional financial resources may also be made available through EU programs and initiatives.
4. Monitoring and Reporting: The regulation emphasizes the importance of monitoring and reporting on the progress of restoration activities. Member States will be required to establish monitoring systems to assess the status of ecosystems and track the implementation of restoration measures. They will also report regularly to the European Commission on the progress made towards achieving the restoration targets.
5. Knowledge and Capacity Building: The proposal highlights the need to enhance knowledge and capacity for effective nature restoration. It calls for the exchange of best practices, the development of guidelines and tools, and the promotion of research and innovation in the field of ecosystem restoration. Capacity building initiatives will be supported to ensure that Member States have the necessary expertise and skills to implement restoration measures effectively.
These concrete measures aimed to provide a clear framework and actionable steps for Member States to restore and maintain biodiversity-rich ecosystems across the EU. By setting binding targets, facilitating funding, and promoting monitoring and knowledge sharing, the regulation aimed to drive progress in nature restoration efforts.
Which measures have encountered opposition from the center-right?
The measures that have encountered opposition from the center-right include several criticisms and concerns regarding the proposed nature restoration regulation. Some of the main criticisms and points of opposition from the center-right are:
1. Financial burden: The center-right has raised concerns about the financial burden that could result from implementing restoration measures. They argue that the obligation to achieve restoration goals could require significant investments from member countries, risking the economy and competitiveness.
2. Sovereignty of member states: There has been opposition from the center-right regarding the perceived potential threat to the sovereignty of member states. They argue that defining binding restoration targets at the European level could limit the flexibility of member states in managing their natural resources and adapting to local specificities.
3. Impact on agriculture and the forestry sector: The center-right has expressed concern about the impact that restoration measures could have on agriculture and the forestry sector. They believe that restrictions imposed on agricultural and forestry activities could harm the rural economy and threaten food security.
4. Needs of local communities: The center-right has emphasized the need to carefully consider the needs of local communities involved in restoration activities. They argue that restoration measures should take into account local realities, traditions, and economic activities of the affected communities in order to ensure a balance between nature conservation and people’s needs.
It is important to note that these are just some of the main concerns raised by the center-right regarding the proposed concrete measures. Opinions and positions can vary within the center-right, and additional points of opposition may emerge during the process of debate and negotiation.
The European Parliament will vote on the proposed Regulation in Plenary in July 2023. If the rejection is confirmed, the Commission will have to withdraw the proposal, and if desired, may resubmit a new proposal.
Since new European elections will take place in 12 months and for Vice President Timmermans, it could mark the end of his long experience in the Brussels Executive, the Regulation may only be subject to a possible vote in 2025.
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