Members of the European Parliament narrowly voted in favour of the Nature Restoration Law, which aims to restore Europe’s ecosystems, including protected and managed forests. This came after several Committees initially voted to reject it, due to an alliance between Conservatives and the far right.
“Despite Conservative efforts to thwart plans to restore ecosystems, the European Parliament's positive vote on the Nature Restoration Law has provided a lifeline for efforts to improve EU forests’ resilience,” said Kelsey Perlman, European Forest campaigner at forests and rights NGO, Fern.
Bittersweet outcome for forests
The compromise agreed today mirrors many elements of the European Council’s position, including an overall target to cover 20% of land and sea area 'in need of restoration'. The EP position deviates on some key points. Although the Law includes an Article on forests, the text removed two key indicators that would have allowed authorities to correctly track forest restoration. There was also an unhelpful amendment preventing the redirection of funds from the Common Agricultural Policy to support close to nature forestry.
When adopting their position, Member States called for new funding to support the restoration effort. While Estonian, Finnish and Swedish forestry sectors have called for forests to be excluded from the Law, many foresters who are shifting towards close to nature practices have voiced strong support for the Law.
“For close to nature forestry to thrive, practitioners will need financial support. Funds already exist and should be redirected to more nature friendly practices, which is something the European Parliament has failed to acknowledge,” added Perlman.
The Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the European Parliament are now set to negotiate during “trilogues” on the final text of the Law.
Double standards on forests
The strength of EU action to protect nature at home also has geopolitical implications. Many countries in the global South are still coming to terms with the ambitious environmental market-access rules that are part of the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products. They are now accusing the EU of double standards, as it is not possible to be a front-runner in the fight against global deforestation if you are not willing to also restore your own ecosystems.
Nowhere is this more visible than within the European People's Party (EPP) who largely endorsed the EU’s efforts to stamp out tropical deforestation from its supply chains but have tried to thwart the EU’s own Nature Restoration Law - which includes forests. It is also thanks, however, to several EPP members that the Law passed as they decided to oppose their group’s position.
“There is a stark contrast between the weak Nature Restoration Law agreed today and the ambitious rules included in the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products. The EU’s double-standards could be detrimental to its international credibility on climate and biodiversity action.” Said Hannah Mowat, Fern’s campaigns coordinator.
Fern has joined hundreds of thousands of citizens, progressive foresters and farmers, scientists and NGOs from every corner of the EU who believe that there is no future on this planet - let alone food to eat - if we do not restore nature.