Worrying developments threaten the Nature Restoration Law.

Back in November, consensus was achieved on the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) and subsequently endorsed by ambassadors of Member States. Following backing from citizens, scientists, businesses and finally the European Parliament, the next steps were to be merely  formalities – a rubber stamp of approval from the Council made up of the heads of the 27 Member States.

However, right before this final hurdle a vote by EU diplomats was taken so that the Belgian presidency could wage whether the law had support from 55% of EU countries (which is to represent 65% of total EU population). Usually this vote is a smooth part of the procedure which leads to advancing the agenda for speedy adoption. 

Observers began to voice concern before Friday’s vote that this hotly contested bit of legislation would be blocked at the very last minute, as report’s that the Belgian Prime Minister had been lobbying against it behind closed doors. This has led to a minority of members again preventing the adoption of this legislation which was to be instrumental in securing our global agreement of protecting 30% of earth’s land and sea. 

The delay has been primarily down to Hungary holding out and refusing to accept the law’s final adoption. The #RestoraeNature coalition, consisting of BirdLife EU, ClientEarth, EEB and WWF EU has stated that the block is clearly politically motivated and condemn all Member States who are not supporting the law. Hungary’s position has been unchallenged by Sweden, Poland, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Italy – all of whom either abstain or oppose.

This manouver is said to be extremely worrying in terms of the future credibility and rigour of EU law making, jeopardizing EU decision-making processes on crucial files and its reputation as a global leader of climate and environmental ambition. 

Political resistance from conservatives

According to the law provisionally agreed upon, EU members must commence reversing biodiversity decline on a minimum of 20% of the EU’s land and sea by the end of the decade. Additionally, they are required to collectively open up 25,000km of previously dammed waterways and plant 3 billion new trees. The law also establishes targets for gradually restoring various ecosystems, ranging from seagrass meadows to drained peatland.

The obstruction of the Nature Restoration Law serves as the latest instance of resistance, particularly from political conservatives and farmers claiming to represent their interests, against the green agenda of the EU executive led by German politician Ursula von der Leyen. Von der Leyen, a member of the EPP group, is vying for a second term as Commission president following the upcoming EU elections.

Last month, von der Leyen withdrew her proposal to halve pesticide use across the EU after prolonged disputes and deadlock in the Council and Parliament. Additionally, a due diligence law known as the CSDDD, aimed at preventing environmental damage along supply chains, narrowly passed this month after several governments refused to adhere to a previous political agreement.

We’ve said it before but – the stakes have never been higher for EU Democracy. Use your voice this summer to ensure that we elect leaders who represent our interests for robust and transparent decision and law making.