By Dr. Ferdinand Meeus
During the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 12 July, a majority of MEPs approved the EU Climate Pope Frans Timmermans’ hotly contested “Nature Restoration Law”, fortunately after adding a number of amendments. This was the so-called first reading of the law. This newly proposed piece of EU legislation signifies a true bureaucratic threat to the European Union’s prosperity.
Until just before the vote, it was unclear whether the bill would pass. First, a proposal to reject the Nature Restoration Act in its entirety was put to a vote. That proposal was rejected by a narrow majority of 324 votes, with 312 votes in favour of disapproval and 12 abstentions. The final vote was on the law with the adopted amendments.The result was 336 in favour, 324 against and 12 abstentions.You can check the voting record of individual MEPs here and here.
🌳🐝EU Nature Restoration Law
Parliament adopts its position for negotiations with @EUCouncil
Press release to come shortly pic.twitter.com/e8u6bRf9wf
— EP PressService (@EuroParlPress) July 12, 2023
So this is the right-wing alliance that supported an EPP-led push to reject the Nature Restoration law outright.
As expected it's a grouping of far-right ID, right-wing ECR, EPP, non-attached Fidesz and a rebellion of 27 Renew Europe MEPs. pic.twitter.com/0HR1bVUyD8
— Eddy Wax (@EddyWax) July 12, 2023
European Parliament consent
Thus, the amended text of the Nature Restoration Law has now received the consent of the European Parliament and must be further discussed with and approved by the European Council (the heads of government of the member states) to be cast in a final version. After that, if the European Parliament and the European Council agree to a final approved compromise text, the new EU regulation will be a reality and must be implemented by the member states. Incidentally, the Dutch cabinet had previously opposed the Nature Restoration Act.
The Nature Restoration Law is a vital part of the European Green Deal, the showpiece of Frans Timmermans as vice-president of the European Commission. According to him, there is a need for the realisation of a binding Nature Restoration Act because – despite existing European nature objectives – member states would be failing to halt biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.
The European Commission starts from the (erroneous) assumption that 81% of natural ecosystems and biodiversity within the EU are in poor condition. This should improve through imposing mandatory “Restoration Plans” upon member states. These aim to restore pre-existing ecosystems as laid down in environmental and Habitats Directives for land and sea. In practice, by 2030, member states would need to implement restoration measures covering at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas.
The big problem with such noble green fairy tale wishful thinking is that the definition of “nature restoration” has a very arbitrary and highly subjective ideological character.
After all, who decides :
– which reference “nature” to pursue?
– which biodiversity belongs to the reference “nature”?
– which balance between humans and nature is appropriate?
The Nature Restoration Law was written by the green bureaucrats of the European Commission, led by a Dutch social democrat, climate pope Frans Timmermans, and his paladin Diederik Samsom, a former Dutch Labour leader and former greenpeace campaigner. The original draft was full of extremist off-the-cuff rules, the most glaring of which was formulated in Article 14, which required farmers to restore 10% of their farmland into “highly diverse landscape elements” by 2030. Whatever that may be.
We can still count ourselves lucky that the European Commission, in all its green wisdom, recognised the existence of the Netherlands and did not create a nature restoration rule to restore the land conquered by the Netherlands from the sea and give it back to the sea.The Netherlands does have to submit a detailed marine restoration plan, which includes “seagrass beds on littoral mud”.
It is positive that common sense amendments were adopted by the European Parliament that stripped the original version of the Nature Restoration Act of the most extremist and unworkable nature restoration rules, which would have victimised farmers and citizens. These amendments are well documented here.
🧵 DRAAD – graag delen!
Het Europees Parlement nam vandaag de Nederland-op-slot-wet aan. Dat is slecht voor ons land.
Maar een overwinning voor @TimmermansEU?
Want er is ook goed nieuws: veel van mijn voorstellen zijn aangenomen!
— Rob Roos MEP 🇳🇱 (@Rob_Roos) July 12, 2023
Taking away land
An extremely important amendment for farmers is that the obligation to restore 10% agricultural land into “highly diverse landscape elements” by 2030 was scrapped. The original text, with the amendment, can be found here, as proof of how EU green elite planned to take 10% of farmers’ land and give it back to nature.
Other crucial amendments converted some nature restoration “obligations” into mere “obligations to make an effort“. The nature restoration plans of each individual country must be “approved” by the European Commission in consultation with the member state and based on the latest scientific knowledge. Not complying with such an obligation to make an effort is difficult to prove. As a result, most plans cannot be disapproved. Still, it all remains a dangerous grey area and depends on the political ideology of and interpretation by the European Commission.
Also the deterioration ban has been watered down, as also socio-economic characteristics and population density of the region must now be taken into account. Furthermore, another easing of the obligations is that nature restoration objectives apply to the entire European Union and not to each individual country.
A big concern is that if a complaint is filed in a member state based on the Nature Restoration Law, it will ultimately be the courts that will decide on the correct interpretation of the law. We now know how court decisions on Natura 2000 sites have usually turned out.
Despite the many amendments, the text still contains the fundamental notion of nature restoration objectives for all existing ecosystems on land and sea, and the law is also valid outside Natura 2000 areas. This fact sets a dangerous precedent and could hamper economic growth and prosperity. It is likely to block existing and new permits for farmers, businesses and citizens, as well as government infrastructure works. Consider the many legal proceedings in the nitrogen crisis, where judges almost always opted for strict interpretations of European and national legislation. If a host of proceedings are added to this, thriving economies in the European Union, like the Netherlands, could be brought to a complete standstill.
Dutch business federation VNO-NCW has warned that the newly proposed EU #NatureRestoration law would create a “lockdown for new business and the energy transition" and "permanently close NL to new economic activities" @VNONCW https://t.co/g6lhlFM1Jo pic.twitter.com/hdV03bSLcU
— Pieter Cleppe (@pietercleppe) July 12, 2023
Timmermans and his cronies obviously want the green energy transition to continue unimpeded. That is why an exemption provision was eventually included in the Nature Restoration Act for the construction of wind turbines, solar parks and electricity connection networks in connection with the energy transition. So cutting down forests for the sake of biomass plants and polluting the sea with wind farms will continue to be allowed. Another “funny” exception: if nature restoration plans turn out not to work because of climate change, there will be no penalties for force majeure. How this will be determined in practice remains to be seen.
Key questions remain unanswered about the impact the #NatureRestoration Law will have on food prices and legal certainty.
— EPP Group (@EPPGroup) July 12, 2023
The text now needs further discussion and negotiation with the various EU governments that are represented in the European Council. Let us hope that the heads of government further turn this fundamentally extreme green activist-inspired text into a final version that does not endanger our economic prosperity. In the end, the member states, each country separately for their territory, must draw up and submit a national Nature Recovery Plan. I hope politicians do not leave this to the green lobbyists, because then we will end up with a crisis which is much worse than the current nitrogen crisis. If the nature of 70 years ago is to be fully restored, it is not inconceivable that we will have to return to the Netherlands before the Delta Works.
Originally published in Dutch by OpinieZ