May 25, 2024

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The European Parliament passes the law of nature after a political backlash

The European Parliament passes the law of nature after a political backlash

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Parliament voted on Wednesday on a hotly contested law to restore degraded natural ecosystems and salvage environmental measures that centre-right lawmakers have called for their eradication.

EU lawmakers adopted the legal motion with 336 votes in favour, 300 against and 13 abstentions. Lawmakers and member states will now negotiate the final text, with the aim of reaching an agreement before elections to the EU Parliament in 2024.

“We won. It’s a social victory: for scientists, for young people, for many businesses, companies and the agricultural sector,” Cesar Luena, parliament’s chief negotiator on the law, told reporters after the vote.

The decision came after months of political campaigning that exposed deep divisions between EU countries and lawmakers over the proposal, with government leaders warning that Europe was pushing too many environmental laws as part of its sweeping green agenda.

The European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group of lawmakers in the European Parliament, has led a campaign to reject the plan on the grounds that it would harm farmers and endanger food security.

“It’s an empty win,” said Manfred Weber, EPP Group President. “We can only succeed in the Green Deal if we unite, and that is clearly not the case with this bad piece of legislation.”

The legislation will require countries to take measures to restore nature on a fifth of their land and sea by 2030. The aim is to reverse the decline of natural habitats in Europe – 81% of which are classified as in poor health.

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European MP Mohamed Shahim said, “Restoring nature has many benefits for farmers.” “It’s that simple: we can’t grow food on dead soil.”

Lawmakers and scholars have rejected the EPP’s claims, accusing the group of using disinformation to attract votes ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections. The group denies this.

“This law is not against anyone,” Luena said. “This is a law on behalf of nature and not against anyone at all.”

Luina thanked the scientists and young people who supported the law – among them Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who attended the European Union Assembly on Wednesday to watch the vote.

Brussels has already passed dozens of carbon dioxide emission reduction laws to advance the EU’s overall green agenda, including its goal of reaching net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

But recent environmental proposals have run up resistance — particularly those that would require changes from farmers to address environmental pollution and the collapse of bee and butterfly populations.

European Union lawmakers voted earlier this week to weaken another law to cut pollution from farms.

Additional reporting by Kate Abnett, Maren Strauss, Bart Meagher and Charlotte van Campenhout; Editing by Mark Potter, Devika Syamnath and Ed Osmond

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