The European Commission has indicated that it is open to considering further flexibility on certain aspects of the proposed Nature Restoration Law. The commission’s response comes in the wake of concerns raised by various stakeholders regarding the law, which seeks to re-wet large areas of peatland, including those currently under agricultural use. The proposed law has been criticized by farming organizations in Ireland and across Europe, as well as by several MEPs. In an effort to address these concerns, the commission has outlined some clarifications and identified areas where it is willing to introduce certain flexibilities.
The commission has stated that it may consider increasing the share of drained peatlands that can be rewetted on land that is not under agricultural use. Additionally, it has recognized the importance of involving farmers and landowners in the process and making rewetting economically attractive for them, including through financial support. The commission has emphasized that the targets in the proposed law are strongly linked to the EU’s climate commitments, and that restoring drained peatlands is one of the most cost-effective measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture sector.
The commission’s original draft proposal already contained flexibilities that recognized that some member states have a higher percentage of drained peatland under agricultural use than others. These flexibilities would have allowed those member states to restore and partially rewet drained peatland in other relevant areas instead of agricultural land. The commission has also clarified that farmers, fishers, foresters, and other land users are not expected to bear the cost of nature restoration. Instead, those who contribute to reaching the targets under the law should not only be compensated but also rewarded for the high value of the ecosystem services they will provide.
The commission has identified several pre-existing funding measures, either partly or wholly earmarked for biodiversity, that can be used to fund the implementation of the law. These measures include the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, the Programme for Environmental and Climate Action (LIFE), the European Regional Development Fund, the Just Transition Fund, the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility (established during the Covid-19 pandemic), and the main EU budget as a whole. The commission also believes that there is significant potential for leveraging public/private investments to cover the costs of restoring and rewetting. It has stated that it is ready to support member states to enhance their capacity to absorb EU funding for biodiversity.
The commission has emphasized that the proposed Nature Restoration Law is an essential component of the EU’s efforts to combat climate change and protect biodiversity. It has stated that it will continue to engage with stakeholders, including farmers and landowners, to ensure that they are adequately represented in the process. The commission has also committed to assessing any gaps between member states’ restoration funding needs from the EU budget and the EU funding available for supporting them in the implementation of the law. It will identify potential solutions to bridge the identified gaps.
The proposed Nature Restoration Law has been a subject of intense debate in Ireland and across Europe. While environmentalists have welcomed the law as a crucial step towards protecting biodiversity and mitigating climate change, farming organizations have expressed concern that it could lead to the loss of valuable agricultural land. The commission’s response is likely to be seen as a positive development by both sides, as it indicates a willingness to engage with stakeholders and consider their concerns. It remains to be seen, however, whether the proposed law will be amended in response to these concerns, or whether it will be passed in its current form.