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Minister hopeful for EU Nature Restoration Law adoption

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan has said he is hopeful that a controversial law on European biodiversity can be adopted by July, when the current Belgian presidency of the European Union comes to an end.

The Nature Restoration Law was approved by the European Parliament in February, following a stormy passage through the legislative process.

However, a number of countries changed their minds on the legislation, despite having earlier approved it.

Minister Ryan led a campaign earlier this month to win countries back to supporting the Nature Restoration Law by 17 June, when EU environment ministers hold their last meeting of the Belgian presidency.

The Nature Restoration Law is a key part of the European Green Deal, designed to reduce European carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

It would oblige member states to restore at least 20% of habitat areas in poor condition by 2030, followed by 60% by 2040, and 90% by 2050.

Mr Ryan said 11 countries, including Ireland, support the law, while six were hedging ahead of the European elections in early June.

He said failure to pass the legislation would make a mockery of Europe’s attempts to lead the world on restoring biodiversity, as part of the net zero carbon emissions campaign.

“It just takes one country to move,” he told reporters in Brussels.

“And if one doesn’t, what do we say when we go to Biodiversity COP, two years after the last one, when we promised to deliver a nature restoration law?

“Europe would have to turn up and say, I’m sorry, we’ve changed our minds. That would be disastrous for nature in Europe, for society, but also for our reputation.”

Mr Ryan is attending a meeting of EU environment ministers, who are discussing the progress of the European Green Deal, the signature policy of the outgoing European Commission.

The deal has come under growing pressure from farmers and a number of governments, worried about a voter backlash.

European milk producers and farmers protesting in Brussels earlier this week

Mr Ryan said there were three reasons to keep going with it.

“Firstly, if we reduce our use of fossil fuels, that’s our best protection against being controlled from outside.

“Secondly, on competitiveness, if we keep burning fossil fuels that is not good for the European economy – that’s money going out of Europe,” he said.

“Thirdly, unless we address climate change, the costs we’re seeing, the costs we saw last year in Greece, Slovenia, the costs we’ve seen in Ireland in the last 10 months [when it] has rained non-stop, that has hit home.”

Mr Ryan suggested that Green MEPs should support the reappointment of Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission president for a second term, following the European elections.

Opinion polls suggest that due to an expected surge in far-right MEPs, a coalition of centre-right, centre-left and liberal groups in the Parliament may not be enough to provide Ms von der Leyen with a majority.

“The central choice in this election [is], will it be the far-right or will it be a Green New Deal, a Green-influenced Commission?

“Yes, I think we shouldn’t walk away from taking responsibility, but not at any cost. And not if it includes some of those [far-right] elements that would be run completely contrary to a functioning majority.

“This is a time to be in government if you can [be]. This is not a time to be on the sidelines.”

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