The recently agreed Nature Restoration Law has been met with a mix of praise and criticism at the EU level, with some expressing concerns about its level of ambition, particularly in relation to peatland restoration. On Thursday, November 9, a provisional political agreement was reached between the European Parliament and the EU Council regarding the controversial law. The text of the law sets targets for the restoration of drained peatlands under agricultural use, aiming to restore 30% by 2030, 40% by 2040, and 50% by 2050. However, flexibility will be provided when it comes to rewetting peatlands, allowing strongly affected member states to apply lower percentages. It is important to note that reaching rewetting targets does not impose any obligations on farmers or private landowners. Furthermore, an “emergency brake” provision will allow for the suspension of agricultural ecosystem targets in the event of severe EU-wide consequences on land availability for food production.
Mick Wallace, a Nature Restoration Law MEP and member of the Left in the European Parliament, expressed disappointment in the final text, particularly in terms of peatlands. He believes that the percentage area targets for restoration and rewetting are not ambitious enough, considering the climate and biodiversity crises. Wallace specifically criticized the European People’s Party (EPP), of which Fine Gael is a member, accusing the party of undermining the law. Despite welcoming certain aspects of the agreed text, he believes that more nature legislation will be necessary, as the Nature Restoration Law alone will not be sufficient to address the biodiversity crisis. German MEP Christine Schneider, who participated in the negotiations for the EPP group, stated that the party is pleased the final text differs significantly from the original proposal. She described the commission’s original proposal as “ideologically driven, practically infeasible, and a disaster for farmers, forest owners, fishermen, and local and regional authorities.” The EPP highlighted notable improvements in the text, such as the exclusion of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for nature restoration measures and the prioritization of Natura 2000 areas.
Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan welcomed the agreement, emphasizing its relevance for Ireland, which she described as having the “most depleted wetland habitats” on the planet. While acknowledging that the Nature Restoration Law is not perfect, O’Sullivan, who sits on the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, sees it as a crucial step towards reversing the negative impact on nature and recognizing the benefits of nature restoration for the economy, food production, and public health. Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe also expressed satisfaction with the agreement, stating that it represents a fair and pragmatic approach that will help reverse the decline of pollinators and restore peatlands. A final vote on the law is expected to take place in early 2024.
In conclusion, the agreed Nature Restoration Law has received a mixed response, with some expressing concerns about its level of ambition, particularly in relation to peatland restoration. However, others have welcomed the law, highlighting its potential benefits for the environment, economy, and public health. The final text of the law differs significantly from the original proposal, addressing some of the criticisms raised during the negotiation process. While it may not be perfect, it is seen as an important step towards reversing the decline of pollinators and restoring peatlands. The law will now proceed to a final vote in the European Parliament in early 2024.