EU Adopts ‘Nature Restoration Plan’ Despite Ag Opposition

Jun 18, 2024

By Ryan Hanrahan

The Associated Press’ Samuel Petrequin reported that “European Union countries on Monday gave final approval to a major and long-awaited plan to better protect nature in the 27-nation bloc, a divisive issue after months of protests by farmers who argued that EU environmental and climate laws were driving them toward bankruptcy.”

“After surviving a razor-thin vote by lawmakers last summer, the so-called Nature Restoration Plan faced opposition from several member states, leaving the bill deadlocked for months,” Petrequin reported. “The law, which aims at restoring ecosystems, species and habitats in the EU, was finally adopted at a meeting of environment ministers in Luxembourg after rallying the required support from a qualified majority representing 15 of the 27 member states and 65% of the EU population. Austria’s vote in favor of the plan helped to break the stalemate.”

While the plan was approved, Petrequin reported that “the EU’s main agricultural group, COPA-COGECA, said the plan lacks clear and consistent funding and that the law cannot be implemented on the ground.”

What’s in the Plan?

Petrequin reported that “the Nature Restoration plan is part of the EU’s European Green Deal that seeks to establish the world’s most ambitious climate and biodiversity targets and make the bloc the global point of reference on all climate issues.”

“Under the new law, EU countries will be required to restore at least 30% of habitats such as forests, rivers, grasslands, wetlands, lakes and coral beds deemed in poor condition by 2030,” Petrequin reported. “This percentage is set to increase to 60% by 2040 and 90% by 2050. The law also introduces specific requirements for measures to reverse the decline of pollinators.”

“EU countries must restore at least 30% of drained peatlands by 2030, but the target for rewetting is set at national level, meaning that individual farmers and private landowners will not have responsibility for meeting it,” Petrequin reported. “The law also provides for an emergency brake, as requested by Parliament. Targets for agricultural ecosystems can be suspended under exceptional circumstances if they severely reduce the land needed to produce sufficient food for EU consumption.”

Why Farmers Were Protesting the Plan

Euro News’ Angela Symons reported Monday that farmers were protesting the plan because they “say the EU’s environmental regulations are putting added strain on an industry already badly impacted by climate change. They point to contradictory regulations that at once require farmers to reduce their environmental impact while increasing food production.”

“With fuel subsidies being removed and emissions regulations ramped up, farmers have complained of a lack of support in the green transition,” Symons reported.

Farmer Protests Have Helped Weaken Other EU Climate Proposals

While the Nature Restoration Plan was approved Monday, the Associated Press’ Raf Casert reported in mid-March that farmer protests over the last few months have helped to successfully weaken or eliminate some EU climate proposals.

For example, Casert reported in mid-March that “the European Union’s executive arm on Friday proposed weakening even more climate and environmental measures in the bloc’s latest set of concessions to farmers apparently bent on continuing disruptive tractor protests until the June EU elections.”

“Under the proposals, the conditions to move farming to become more climate friendly were weakened or cut in areas like crop rotation, soil cover protection and tillage methods,” Casert reported. “Small farmers, representing some two-thirds of the workforce and the most active within the continent-wide protest movement, will be exempt from some controls and penalties under the new rules.”

“Friday’s plans were the EU’s latest concessions in reaction to protests that have affected the daily lives of tens of millions of EU citizens and cost businesses tens of millions of euros due to transportation delays,” Casert reported. “Others have included shelving legislation on tighter pesticide rules and requirements to let some land lie fallow.”

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