Role of farmers critically important to nature restoration process, says junior minister

European Parliament to vote on the EU Nature Restoration Law on Tuesday, but work under way to create a restoration plan for Ireland regardless of outcome, says Malcolm Noonan

The Government will continue with plans to protect and restore key elements of the natural environment if the Nature Restoration Law is not passed at European Union level, the junior minister for nature has said.

The challenge involved in the issue is that the vote is taking place at the end of the EU electoral cycle, Minister of State with responsibility for nature Malcolm Noonan said, noting how critical the role of farmers was to the entire process.

The European Parliament is to vote on the EU Nature Restoration Law on Tuesday.

The legislation is a key part of the EU’s European Green Deal, which seeks to establish the world’s most ambitious climate and biodiversity targets and make the bloc the global point of reference on climate issues.


The plans proposed by the European Commission set binding restoration targets for specific habitats and species, with the aim by 2030 to restore at least 20 per cent of land and sea areas and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

Mr Noonan has acknowledged that some see the EU proposal as limited, but said that “it won’t limit our ambition” in Ireland.

He said that even if the law is not passed at EU level, work is already under way to create a restoration plan for Ireland, with the aim of bringing it into effect by 2026.

However, ambitions to restore Ireland’s nature cannot take place without farmers’ help, he added.

“I’ve been talking to MEPs over the last few days just to sound them out on where they are with it, it’s a big vote next week.

“I do hope it passes, but the Irish Government has been very strong and supportive in relation to the Nature Restoration Law and have shown good leadership in a European context on it.

“I would hope that it does [pass], and if it doesn’t, we’ve made a commitment that we will develop our own plan – a lot of the elements which are under way in a lot of those projects I’ve talked about.

Referring to the Climate Nature Fund of €3.15 billion, he said legislation is being drafted “which will add that mechanism to unlock a capital funding to provide consistent levels of funding into our communities for restoration”.

He said the restoration plan would be collaborative, would involve widespread public engagement and participation of all relevant stakeholders in the process, and would be designed in such a way that people have a strong input.

“Farmers across Europe are protesting for many reasons, there’s falling prices, rising input costs, climate change impacting on their livelihoods,” he said. “Critically important across Europe, I think – politicians need to listen to them and listen to what they’re saying.

“They shouldn’t have to farm in fear all the time. They should have some certainty around their incomes. And the biggest challenge we see not just in Ireland in farming is succession.

“When you have such a dynamic labour market now where there are so many opportunities for young people, could you blame them for not wanting to spend 14-15 hours a day getting soaked out on a farm for a limited return?

“And while there are good tech jobs in the city and other opportunities for them?

“We’ve been consistent as well in talking about the nature restoration, we can’t restore nature without active farmers. They play a really important role, animals grazing on land, all of that is hugely significant.” – PA