The Nature Restoration Law returns with unwavering public support

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14 Jun

On Monday 17 June, the Nature Restoration Law is scheduled (for a vote) at the upcoming Environment Council meeting, as decided by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU. EAA and other NGOs in the #RestoreNature coalition are urging opposing Member States to finally endorse the long-awaited law. The final decision on the agenda of the Environment Council and whether the law will be voted on will be taken at the meeting of the ambassadors (Coreper) today.

As the positions of several countries remain unclear, it is uncertain if the Nature Restoration Law will have the necessary qualified majority [1] to be adopted on 17 June. The law has been hanging in the balance since March when Hungary withdrew its previous endorsement and the law lost the qualified majority. However, there have been multiple initiatives to rally support for the delayed law in the last months, most notably in Austria, Poland, and Belgium

How did we get to this extremely rare & worrying situation?  

The law to restore Europe’s degraded habitats experienced an unusual journey so far. After a nail-biting vote in the European Parliament last July, the law’s trilogue agreement was reached relatively quickly between the Council, Parliament and Commission in November last year, and endorsed by the European Parliament in February this year.

The final hurdle was obtaining the formal approval of EU Member States, expected in March, but Hungary withdrew its endorsement at the very last moment. Despite multiple appeals and petitions to adopt it, Sweden, Poland, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Italy have not granted their support. This has left the law deadlocked ever since.

Environment ministers, businesses, cities, and scientists urge to adopt the law

The Nature Restoration Law has already enjoyed massive support from citizens, scientists, businesses, activists, and many more. In light of the unexpected delay, multiple stakeholders reaffirmed their support, with businesses sending a special letter to the Belgian Presidency, and scientists, as well as European cities and regions, calling on Member States to adopt the law.

In a unique move, 11 environment ministers sent a powerful letter to their peers urging them to support the legislation at the upcoming Environment Council meeting.

Opposing countries are at odds with public opinion

The results of a recent poll revealed that 75% of Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Italian, Polish and Swedish citizens support the law, while their governments continue to deny them the benefits of nature restoration. The biggest support was found in Italy with 85% of citizens backing it, followed by Hungary with 83%, and Poland with 72%. Only 6% of those surveyed disagreed that the law should be adopted.

A few months earlier, similar surveys were conducted in Austria and Belgium, two countries that abstained from previous votes on the Nature Restoration Law. In Austria, 77% of the population wants nature to be consistently protected and restored. In Belgium, over 84% of people believe that their governments should do more to restore at least 30% of nature in poor condition on land and at sea by 2030.

Reactions from the #RestoreNature coalition 

“Citizens have spoken and want to see nature restored and thriving in their countries. But several governments remain short-sighted, blatantly ignore their constituents, and block the most significant piece of nature legislation in the EU since the 1990s, despite making numerous compromises to accommodate their concerns. We call on these Member States to reconsider their opposition and join the majority of EU countries supporting the adoption of the Nature Restoration Law.”

“Meanwhile, Europe is witnessing more devastating floods spreading in southern Germany and parts of Austria. Adopting the law and investing in nature restoration is the solution to protect citizens and prevent further extreme weather-related disasters.”

Notes to editors:

[1] A qualified majority is reached when at least 55% of Member States (15 out of 27) vote in favour, and the proposal is supported by Member States representing at least 65% of the total EU population. Currently, the Nature Restoration Law does not fulfill the second criterion.

Photo credits: Kristof Vadino

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