The controversial EU Nature Restoration Law has undergone changes to address concerns of the Irish farming community. Sinn Féin MEP, Chris MacManus, has confirmed that the new text of the law includes practical additions that reflect the wishes of farmers. The law has been a cause of concern for farming representative bodies both in Ireland and across the EU, as it would require large areas of peatland to be rewetted, effectively ending farming activity on those lands. The law has already been defeated in the parliament’s agriculture committee and fisheries committee, and the possibility of it being rejected by the parliament as a whole is becoming increasingly likely. The law is currently being debated by the parliament’s environment committee, which is set to vote on the text next week.
According to MacManus, the environment committee has brought forward changes to the law that he believes represent a “step forward” in addressing key concerns raised by the farming community. He criticized the European People’s Party (EPP) – the European Parliament political grouping of which Fine Gael is a member – for walking away from talks on the draft law last week. The following provisions have been added to the law, according to the Sinn Féin MEP:
• A definition of rewetting and an explicit obligation that it must be voluntary for farmers;
• A requirement that national restoration plans must provide for an estimated socio-economic impact of the implementation of the restoration measures;
• Compensation schemes for farmers and others who choose to undertake nature restoration measures;
• A new chapter on funding, including a mandate for a “permanent dedicated nature restoration fund” (outside of the Common Agricultural Policy) to provide additional financial support for farmers and others involved in nature restoration;
• A new chapter on public participation so that farmers, foresters, the business community, civil society organisations, landowners, land users, and the general public must be engaged in the preparation, review and implementation of Ireland’s nature restoration plan.
MacManus welcomed the new additions, calling them “sensible and practical” and stating that they have helped achieve a compromise on the legislation, securing vital progress in terms of nature protection and restoration. He also noted that the addition of a new chapter on funding will be welcome news for many landowners in rural Ireland, especially now that it includes a mandate for a permanent dedicated nature restoration fund within the EU budget to provide predictable and additional financial support. MacManus added that there is now a final agreed compromise text that will be voted on in the environment committee, and hopefully subsequently in the plenary.
The new text of the law stipulates that rewetting will be voluntary, targets will be flexible, there will be a national socio-economic impact assessment, and a new dedicated nature restoration fund outside the Common Agricultural Policy that farmers, foresters, fishers, and others could avail of. These changes are a significant step forward for the Irish farming community, who have been vocal in their opposition to the law. The debate over the EU Nature Restoration Law is ongoing, and it remains to be seen how it will ultimately be resolved.