Nature restoration law still on track but European Parliament puts targets for wetlands restoration in doubt

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The European Parliament has voted in favour of the Nature Restoration Law and the EU Green Deal, despite an unprecedented disinformation campaign aiming to destroy it, led by conservative and right-wing politicians and agriculture and fisheries lobbies. The win, however, came at a very high cost as to reach a compromise MEPs sacrificed many critical obligations and targets, including those relating to peatlands restoration on agricultural land.

This meant the Parliament plenary vote, which took place yesterday (12 July), ended with a position substantially weaker than both the original Commission proposal and the Council’s compromise position. The text now falls well short of the level of action required to address the climate and biodiversity crises.

The text voted for by the Parliament deletes the entire paragraph on nature restoration on agricultural land, a worrisome development both for farmland biodiversity threatened by intensive agricultural practices and the achievement of the EU’s climate objectives. Dropping the rewetting of at least a part of agricultural land on drained organic soil means abandoning the proposal’s most effective means of sequestering carbon, as well as important means to improve water cycles. MEPs also voted to restrict the restoration of habitats to Natura 2000 sites and delete the time-bound targets, reducing the scope of the proposal.

Chris Baker, Director of Wetlands International Europe, commented, “Wetlands provide a range of valuable additional benefits and services to humanity, but Europe has already lost half of its wetlands, which makes us the continent most affected by wetland loss worldwide. The Nature Restoration Law is the leading opportunity that we have had in decades to help to reverse this trend. Governments and MEPs should live up to their responsibilities and agree a solid text in the upcoming interinstitutional negotiations, with the support of civil society.”

Elise Vitali, Peatlands Policy Officer at Wetlands International Europe, stated “Today, we celebrate a victory for nature and the EU Green Deal. However, the fierce opposition of MEP Manfred Weber’s allies has led to a substantial watering down of the initial ambitions of the European Commission. This now patchwork legislative proposal, which scraps critical peatlands restoration targets, is likely to set the EU on a path to failure in reaching its biodiversity and climate commitments. The upcoming interinstitutional negotiations must put the EU back on track to halt biodiversity loss by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.”

The vote followed strong public mobilisation to defend the law and the integrity of the EU Green Deal, with over a million signatures and messages from citizens, as well as calls from 6,000 scientists, 100+ businesses, and civil society from across numerous sectors to support the Nature Restoration Law.

We are now calling on all EU institutions to make constructive use of the trilogue negotiations to ensure a final law that is fit for purpose in addressing the global climate and biodiversity emergency.

Learn more about the Nature Restoration Law on our dedicated page.