European Parliament passes Nature Restoration Law despite political backlash

Vote follows weeks of farmer protests in Europe, including a violent demonstration outside EU headquarters in Brussels

European Parliament passes flagship nature law despite political backlash

The European Parliament approved an EU flagship Nature Restoration Law to restore nature on Tuesday, salvaging at least part of its plans to protect the environment after farmers’ protests ignited a backlash.

The vote took place after weeks of farmers’ protests across Europe, including a violent demonstration on Monday outside the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels. Among the protesters’ complaints are the union’s green policies that they say impose excessive bureaucracy on to farmers.

EU policymakers adopted the law with 329 votes in favour, 275 against and 24 abstentions.

It passed despite the European People’s Party (EPP) – the biggest lawmaker group in the parliament – deciding at the last minute to oppose the law, which they said would subject farmers to more red tape. However, ahead of the vote Fine Gael MEPs said they would defy their EPP grouping and vote for the law.


The nature policy is set to be one of the union’s biggest pieces of environmental legislation, requiring countries to introduce measures restoring nature on a fifth of their land and sea by 2030.

It aims to reverse the decline of Europe’s natural habitats – 81 per cent of which are classed as being in poor health – and includes specific targets, for example, to restore peatlands so they can absorb CO2 emissions and help curb climate change.

Minister of State for Nature Malcolm Noonan said it was “a great day for nature and for Europe . . . They took on nature and they lost. Credit is due to all the Irish MEPs who voted in favour.”

The policy now needs final approval from EU countries before it enters into force.

That approval is usually a simple formality, and after Tuesday’s vote the policy looks set to avoid the fate of other green policies that the European Union has scrapped to appease the protesting farmers.

Earlier this month, the European Commission withdrew a proposed law to reduce pesticides and delayed an obligation for farmers to set aside more land for nature.

So far, those moves have failed to quell the farmers’ protests. Some protest organisers say green policies are not the problem, and instead want the union to take action to curb cheap food imports. – Reuters