EU Nature Law Battles On

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – The EU’s beleaguered Nature Restoration Law (NRL) struggled on this week, slightly punch drunk but still standing and staggering on towards the finishing line.  Cheered on from the sidelines by a large crowd of major corporations, the NRL just about scraped through a parliamentary environment committee vote last Thursday, which ended in a dead heat.  The draft law’s corporate cheerleaders were an odd group that included some companies with environmental track records that are sketchy at best.  Perhaps Coca Cola, Nestlé and Danone have finally seen the light.  That would be nice.

    Today Tuesday 20 June, the NRL jumped through yet another hoop, narrowly surviving a vote in the EU Council of Ministers.  The Environment Ministers agreed a joint position on the NRL, effectively sending the ball back into the MEPs court.  It will be far from a slam dunk though, as the European People’s Party (EPP) – the largest political bloc in the EU parliament – seeks to reject or at the very least severely weaken the NRL.  Support in the EU Council was also mixed, with 20 member states representing just over two thirds of the EU population in full support, but other countries objecting to the text in its present form.  These included Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and – following intense pressure from the far-right Sweden Democrats party – the Swedish government, which voted against the very same text it had put forward as acting EU president.  Belgium and Austria abstained from the vote due to their own specific objections.

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    The various battles it has endured so far mean that the NRL is bruised and battered and will be somewhat diminished even if it makes it to the finish line.  Individual member states are likely to have far more scope to adapt the regulations to their perceived circumstances.  The Dutch, for example, point to their high population density as a reason to avoid full NRL implementation.  Poland is also strongly against the restoration of wetlands, which is one of several EPP-supported objections based on the notion that agricultural output will suffer, farming livelihoods will be jeopardised, and food prices will soar even higher.  The overwhelming scientific consensus is that these short-term concerns should be weighed up against the far more serious long-term consequences of inaction.  The EPP has also been accused of a social media disinformation campaign on this topic.

    It seems that the struggle to build a low-carbon, sustainable global economy is heating up on various fronts.  The fossil fuel lobby is doing its utmost to take over the COP climate talks, with its own efforts to water down or swat away any meaningful measures.  Thankfully, fossil lobbyists will have to be explicitly labelled as such at this year’s COP28, following an effective campaign by Global Witness and other NGOs.  The plastics industry is also trying smoke-and-mirrors tactics to derail efforts to reduce production and focus on waste management instead.  The common theme is short-termism: protecting existing revenue streams and to hell with the planet.  Laundromat will keep cheering on the NRL.  Our land, seas and the air that we breathe depend on it – and it makes economic sense too.

    Image courtesy of Pexels from Pixabay
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