Lead MEP ‘optimistic’ nature restoration law not yet dead

The lawmaker leading the European Parliament’s work on controversial new EU nature restoration rules insists a deal is not off the table, despite a campaign by conservative lawmakers to kill off the legislation.

The Parliament’s agriculture and fisheries committees both voted to reject the new nature targets this week, following a successful campaign by the European People’s Party, who rallied support from right-wing groups and a number of MEPs from the liberal Renew Europe group. The EPP maintains that setting aside more land for nature restoration would undermine Europe’s food security.

EU capitals are also increasingly raising their voices against the legislation, with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo earlier this week calling to “hit the pause button” on the new nature rules.

“We have a lot of difficulties with this file … but I’m optimistic,” César Luena, the Spanish MEP from the Socialists & Democrats leading work on the Nature Restoration Regulation, said at an event Wednesday.

There’s still a “possibility” that the Parliament’s leading environment committee can agree a common position on the proposed rules on June 15 and that it could garner enough support in a plenary vote, he said. The plenary vote is penciled in for the week of July 10.

“We could have [the] numbers to pass this file,” he said, as The Left, the Greens, the S&D and “a big part of the liberals [Renew Europe] are on board.”

The Renew group is divided on the file: A large majority of its members voted to reject the legislative proposal both in the agriculture and fisheries committees, according to voting records. But French liberal MEP Pascal Canfin, who chairs the Parliament’s environment committee, said he has “not given up” on getting his group to agree a common position on the rules.

Although the group has concerns about the regulation, it is committed to finding a compromise and doesn’t want to see them rejected outright, according to Canfin.

“We have launched a process … within the ENVI team of Renew to go as united as possible,” he said, adding that the goal is to come up with “concrete requests” to change the regulation by early next week that will allow the group to support it. The last negotiation meeting of the MEPs responsible for the file in the ENVI committee is scheduled for Tuesday, when they’re expected to finalize compromise amendments on the text.

“We can win the battle,” Canfin insisted.

Canfin also hit out at aspects of the EPP’s campaign to kill the law, saying its claims that the new targets would restrict the deployment of renewables are “completely fake and wrong.”

Luena insisted that nature restoration, a key part of the Green Deal, should not be considered “an option.” Europe needs the new rules “for our well-being and our economy.”

The European Commission’s proposal, presented last year, aims to restore at least 20 percent of the bloc’s degraded land and sea areas, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

Article available at www.pro.politico.eu