A key text on biodiversity voted by around fifteen votes.

On Tuesday February 27, the European Parliament narrowly validated legislation requiring the restoration of damaged ecosystems.

With 329 votes for, 275 against and 24 abstentions, MEPs meeting in Strasbourg endorsed the agreement reached in mid-November between negotiators from Parliament and Member States on this key text of the European "Green Deal" aimed at halting the decline of biodiversity.

This legislation, which will come into force after official confirmation from the States, requires for the first time the 27 to establish by 2030 measures to restore ecosystems on 20% of land and marine spaces on a national scale. EU, setting national action plans.

Specific habitats are listed: wetlands, forests, rivers, underwater meadows, etc. Each State must restore at least 30% of these habitats in poor condition by 2030, priority being given to Natura 2000 areas.

The text also pursues other objectives such as improving criteria measuring the health of forests, removing obstacles on waterways and stopping the decline of bees.

MEPs “listened to science without giving in to populism”

“While nature is regressing everywhere, this law will make it possible to restart ecosystems where necessary”, with “flexibilities” to “not put nature under cover”, welcomed Pascal Canfin (Renew, Liberals), the chairman of the parliamentary Environment committee.

The outcome of the vote was very uncertain.

The European People's Party (EPP, right), the first group in Parliament, had called for a vote against this legislation, denouncing the "burden" imposed on farmers, and the far right had tabled amendments to reject it.

Three months before the European elections, conservative elected officials have reaffirmed their distrust of the "Green Deal", a vast set of environmental regulations destined to be criticized in agricultural demonstrations.

“Pretending administrative excesses, European right-wingers have been joining forces for months to weaken or bring down the texts of the Green Pact,” says ecologist Marie Toussaint, who congratulated herself on Tuesday on “a victory for the living.”

If "a part of the right tries to polarize", a certain number of EPP elected officials have "known how to resist the alliance with the anti-ecological populism of the extreme right, the multiple misleading attacks on this text", however underlined Pascal Canfin.

Environmental NGOs BirdLife, ClientEarth, EEB and WWF said they were "relieved that MEPs listened to the science without giving in to populism".

It is “a bittersweet victory for nature and our food systems: the legislation has been seriously weakened, at the risk of cardiac arrhythmia, but at least its heart still beats,” said Sini Eräjää, of Greenpeace.

During an epic battle in the European Parliament last summer, the EPP sought to radically weaken the scope of the text after vainly calling for its outright abandonment.

Under pressure, Parliament had largely emptied the legislative project of its substance by adopting its negotiating mandate in July.

“Additional bureaucratic rules”

The conservatives had criticized the mention of an objective – although only indicative – of extending “high diversity” zones (hedges, ponds, orchards, etc.) to 10% of agricultural land at EU level, which was eventually deleted.

Above all, Parliament had eliminated the article targeting agricultural land.

Of course, this was then reintroduced during the talks with the States but in a very watered down form.

“We still think this is a poorly written law (...). We are putting in place additional bureaucratic rules for our farmers” at a time when food production is under pressure, the German said on Tuesday. Manfred Weber, the president of the PPE group.

The final agreement certainly provides that at least 30% of drained peatlands used in agriculture be restored by 2030, but with possible flexibilities and optional re-watering for farmers.

An “emergency brake” was introduced so that Brussels could suspend the application of the text in the event of “exceptional” circumstances such as a “serious” impact on agri-food production.

This was not enough to reassure Copa-Cogeca, the powerful organization of the majority European agricultural unions, which fought until the end the provisions deemed “unrealistic and unfunded”.

“The problem is not climate laws, it is the state of nature and climate change,” replied socialist MEP César Luena, the text’s rapporteur.

With AFP

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