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MEPs to vote on EU’s Nature Restoration Law

The controversial EU Nature Restoration Law will face its final hurdle later today, when it goes before a vote in the European Parliament.

Under the draft text, countries will be mandated to restore 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and all ecosystems by 2050.

According to the European Commission, over 80% of Europe’s natural habitats are in poor health.

There are exemptions for member states along with an emergency brake facility, whereby the targets for agricultural ecosystems can be temporarily suspended under exceptional circumstances.

If passed by MEPs today, member states will have around two years to implement the law.

However, right wing groups in the European Parliament, such as Identity & Democracy (ID) and the European Conservatives and Reformists, are seeking to reject the proposal.

Yesterday evening the largest group in the parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), also decided to reject the law.

A number of Fine Gael MEPs, who are part of EPP, have indicated that they will defy that instruction and vote in favour of the proposal.

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, a member of the The Left Group, will vote against the legislation.

Mr Flanagan has expressed concern over a lack of detail around how restoration plans will be funded and how farmers will be compensated. The Ireland Midlands Northwest MEP supported the Nature Restoration Law when it was before the parliament last year.

His group colleague however, Mick Wallace, led negotiations on the law on behalf of the Left Group and he strongly supports it.

“The restoration targets do not apply to farmers, only to the member states … the only way that member states can meet the targets for terrestrial ecosystems and for agricultural ecosystems is by incentivising farmers to engage in restoration projects,” he explained.

The Renew Group, comprising Fianna Fáil MEPs Billy Kelleher and Barry Andrews, will also support the proposed law.

It’s not yet clear what the outcome of the vote will be, however the decision by the EPP to reject the law is seen as significant.

Even if defeated, the Irish Government has committed to pressing ahead with nature restoration plans.

Minister of State with responsibility for nature, Malcolm Noonan, has said that the National Biodiversity Plan already sets out ambitious targets.

Regarding criticism from some around an absence of funding for restoration plans, Minister Noonan said funding will be decided upon over the coming two years.

The Climate and Nature Fund announced in last year’s budget, worth €3.15bn, must also be legislated for and a portion of this will be used for biodiversity.

If the Nature Restoration Plan is supported by the European Parliament, the onus will fall on member states to devise plans to implement it over the next two years.

Minister Noonan has committed to holding a public consultation as part of that.

His party colleague, Ciarán Cuffe MEP, has said the Nature Restoration Law is about “bringing nature back to Europe so we can secure livelihoods, food production, and economies into the future”.

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