European Parliament Votes On Nature Restoration: A Biodiversity Milestone

MEPs have voted on the rejection, or not, of a key text of the European Green Deal, the law on the restoration of nature, one year before the European elections.

The vote electrified the debates in the hemicycle of the European Parliament. MEPs ended up adopting this Wednesday, July 12 the ecosystem restoration bill, a flagship text of the EU Green Pact proposed by Brussels which was opposed by elected officials from the right and far right. A text that has made a lot of talk, both its supporters and its opponents, to the point of being erected as a symbol of the environmental policy of the European Union.

Despite fierce opposition from the right represented by the European People’s Party (EPP), but also from the far right and part of the centre, the text was adopted with 336 votes in favour, 300 MEPs voted against and 13 abstained. At the start of the voting session, a motion to reject the text proposed by the conservatives of the EPP was rejected by a narrow majority.

The rapporteur of the text, the elected César Luena, declared after the vote: “Thank you, it is a good law. I especially thank the scientists and the young people who pushed us to obtain this voice, ”reports our colleagues from Ouest France on the spot.

Restoring land and marine spaces

This first green light from Parliament is a victory for biodiversity. This text aims to impose on Member States binding objectives for the restoration of land and marine areas damaged by pollution or intensive exploitation, in line with the COP15 agreement in Montreal. The Twenty-Seven will have to introduce restoration measures by 2030 on 20% of land and marine areas at EU level, then by 2050 on all areas that require it.

Pollution, urbanization, intensive exploitation… according to Brussels, more than 80% of natural habitats in the EU are in a “poor or mediocre” state of conservation (peat bogs, dunes and meadows in particular), and up to 70% soils are in poor health.

This European regulation is also supported by more than 3,000 scientists who have explained that “the greatest threats to food security are climate change and the degradation of nature”. The European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, recalled that this nature restoration law was “the first major European nature law for thirty years and a unique example in the world”.

Failure of the right and the far right

It is also a triumph for the left-wing MEPs and environmentalists who voted overwhelmingly for this bill and a failure for the EPP conservatives who had denounced a text harmful to agricultural production and economic activity. The European People’s Party, the first formation of the hemicycle, notably denounced by the voice of the French elected Anne Sander a killing “of all economic, industrial, forestry and agricultural production in Europe”.

Brussels “believes that purely and simply freezing 10% of our agricultural land does not represent a danger to our food security”, she further criticized. “We may reduce our emissions, but we will have to import our food from all over the world, where production standards are far from ours”.

Arguments taken up by the powerful agricultural organization Copa-Cogeca, which expressed its opposition on Tuesday before Parliament in the name of a productivist approach.

Version of the text “watered down” for some environmentalists

However, the ambition of the text has been revised significantly downwards. Parliament’s position is close to that adopted on June 20 by the Member States. Some ecologists have denounced the adoption of a version of the text that is much less restrictive in terms of the protection of biodiversity compared to the initial proposals of the European Commission.

Green MEP Caroline Roose acknowledged a “bittersweet victory” and lamented “the obstruction from the right” resulting in the adoption of a “largely watered down” version.

“The European Parliament has voted in favor of legally binding objectives aimed at restoring degraded natural areas”, however welcomed Greenpeace, welcoming “the first legislative text for 30 years to protect biodiversity in the EU”.

The conservative group believes that it has defended a line supported by many voters, particularly in the agricultural world, hostile to environmental regulations which they consider excessive. “I am of course disappointed, but our commitment has not been in vain. I will continue to defend the will of people in rural areas,” said German Conservative MP Peter Liese.

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