MEPs vote on “historic” text to restore nature

According to Brussels, 80% of natural habitats in the EU are in a “poor or mediocre” state of conservation and up to 70% of soils are in poor health.



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Lapwings take flight, in Camargue (France), February 26, 2024. (DAVID TATIN / BIOSGARDEN / AFP)

The objective is significant: to halt the decline of biodiversity and repair damaged ecosystems. On Tuesday February 27, MEPs adopted a key text of the Green Deal requiring the 27 member countries to introduce restoration measures on 20% of land and marine areas at EU level by 2030, giving priority to areas classified as Natura 2000. An objective in line with the agreement international signed in 2022 in Montreal (Canada), on the occasion of COP15 Biodiversity.

“The EU needed to have a policy that goes beyond protecting and restoring nature”the rapporteur of the text, the Spanish MEP César Luena, rejoiced in front of the press, emphasizing “a historic breakthrough”. This law in favor of “restoration” of biodiversity constitutes a “key element of the Green Deal, alongside the fight against greenhouse gas emissions”he added.

European states will have two years to establish precise national roadmaps to achieve this common objective, which translates on a national scale into the restoration of at least 30% of habitats in poor condition – particularly due to the pollution, urbanization and intensive agricultural exploitation – before a gradual increase: 60% by 2040 and 90% by 2050.

Ambitions revised downwards

As the European elections approached, suspense reigned until the end over the final adoption of the text by MEPs, with part of the European People’s Party (right) having joined forces with the far right to reject this legislation , however hard negotiated in November between the emissaries of the European Parliament and the member states. For the rapporteur, the “flexibility” of the final text, less ambitious than its first version, made it possible to obtain this consensus.

Thus, a system was introduced to suspend the application of the provisions of the text in the event of circumstances “exceptional”in particular “serious consequences on the availability of land necessary to ensure sufficient production for EU consumption”. Article 1 “concerns food security, it is one of the priority objectives”, detailed César Luena, also citing article 22, allowing the lifting of certain measures in the event of a crisis.

The idea of ​​imposing a binding objective of non-deterioration on areas which have been the subject of restoration has also been abandoned, in favor of a simple obligation to take measures, without constraint on results. According to Brussels, 80% of the European Union’s natural habitats are in a “poor or mediocre” state of conservation and up to 70% of soils are in poor health.

The thorny question of agricultural land

While the anger of farmers resonates in several EU countries, the rapporteur assured that the law “respects the smallest needs expressed by the primary sector”, namely farmers, fishermen or foresters. Proof of the tweezers taken by the legislator so as not to undermine the agricultural world, the text provides that the Member States will have to take measures “aiming to achieve increasing trends” by the end of 2030 for two of the three indicators (grassland butterflies, soil carbon, share of agricultural land “high diversity”), with population objectives for common birds in the countryside.

Furthermore, 30% of drained peatlands used in agriculture must be restored by 2030 (including at least a quarter by rewetting them), 40% by 2040 and 50% by 2050, in order to revive these carbon sinks. natural resources and biodiversity reserves. Here again, “flexibilities” will be possible for the States most concerned and the replenishment of water will remain “optional” for farmers and private owners. Finally, EU countries are required to halt the decline in pollinator populations by 2030 at the latest, before increasing the population, with regular monitoring.

According to the UN, “it is essential to conserve and restore natural spacesboth on land and in water, to limit carbon emissions and adapt to a climate that is already changing”. The restoration of ecosystems makes nature more resilient to the effects of global warming (drought, floods, etc.), but it also makes it possible to fight against it, by absorbing greenhouse gas emissions.

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