EU: Nature Restoration Law passed - a good thing?

With the narrow approval of the Council of Ministers on Monday, the new EU Nature Restoration Law has been finalised. One fifth of damaged ecosystems are to be restored to their original state by 2030, going up to 100 percent by 2050. The Yes vote was only possible because Austria's Green Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler voted in favour, against the will of her boss Chancellor Karl Nehammer's ÖVP. Europe's commentators take up the debate.

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Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

Rebellion promotes disenchantment with politics

The Green environment minister has caused considerable damage, criticises the Kleine Zeitung:

“The decisive factor in the here and now is that Gewessler was willing to openly defy the legal opinion of the constitutional service appointed for this matter. With this action she is bolstering the worryingly increased tendency to lose patience with the rule of law and the laborious coalition negotiations when it comes to climate protection and just go one's own way. Wild West climate protection will certainly work to her advantage in terms of party politics, because she has further cemented her hero status among the Green core groups: finally someone who is actually doing something! But the price is high. It consists of further eroding the already fragile trust of citizens in the legal reliability of government action.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Setting a dangerous precedent

The environmentalists should not rest on their laurels, warns De Morgen:

“The Green joy is understandable, but also short-sighted. This is a risky precedent that undermines the basic rules of European democracy. Will the Greens find it courageous if right-wing ministers start going it alone in the European Councils of Ministers to secure a tough migration policy? The joy could be short-lived. After all, who will protect democracy if even the Greens now put their conscience above the rules of the game?”

Der Standard (AT) /

Tit for tat

Der Standard finds the accusations against Gewessler contrived:

“Whether the Environment Ministry should have tried to reach an agreement with the Agriculture Ministry on the restoration law is debatable. If this obligation were to be interpreted as applying across the board, ministers would have to constantly seek the agreement of other ministries before making a decision in Brussels. ... Gewessler can be accused of pursuing her goals in a legal grey area without regard for her coalition partner. If the latter had not done the same thing for four and a half years, the criticism would be justified. But it merely followed the ÖVP's example when it had the chance. And unlike the Greens, the Turquoise [colour of the ÖVP] are proving to be bad losers.”

El País (ES) /

Symptom of the coming legislative period

El País fears for Europe's environment:

“The difficulties the Nature Restoration Act has faced in getting through hihglight the obstacles that await the Green Pact. ... One of the No votes came from the Netherlands, where the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) has taken up the cause of rejecting EU environmental policy. ... Yesterday's tortuous ratification is just a symptom of the legislative period that will begin after 9 June, if the right wing gives in to its more extreme version. ... The EU cannot afford this irresponsible luxury, because climate change is no longer a threat but an indisputable reality.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Europe bears a huge responsibility

The EU's bold move is in keeping with its responsibility, geologist Mario Tozzi writes in La Stampa:

“This is perhaps the last thing that the old European Parliament could do to place the Old Continent at the forefront of global environmental policy in a way that was more than just symbolic. ... It is worth remembering that the EU is currently responsible for a limited share of climate-damaging emissions (around 10 percent), but that this is not the only figure to consider: if we take into account the cumulative carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution, we can clearly see that Europe bears the greatest responsibility for anthropogenic climate change, at 33 percent.”

Lapin Kansa (FI) /

Just do it

The Finnish government should set aside its opposition and take action, Lapin Kansa urges:

“The government must now completely change its stance. Instead of opposing the law it needs to start working out a plan on how to implement and finance the restoration of the natural ecosystem. We only have two years to do this, so there is no time to lose. ... Although debate on the regulation has centred on Finland's forests, the bulk of restoration measures in this country will probably target peatlands and water bodies. The easiest place to start would be with the once drained peatlands.”

La Croix (FR) /

Progress in the fight against climate change

La Croix is delighted:

“The text, which has been the subject of much controversy and has been renegotiated several times to make it acceptable in particular to representatives of the agricultural sector, is a step forward for nature conservation. Above all at a time when 70 percent of soils are in poor condition and almost half of the tree species found in Europe are threatened with extinction. It is also good news for the fight against climate change, if only in that it serves to preserve our carbon sinks, since the two issues - biodiversity and climate - are so closely interlinked.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

This law is our salvation

The future of the planet is at stake, The Irish Times stresses:

“The irony is that it is farmers and fishers who will suffer - are already suffering - the most immediate impacts of the environmental crises the law seeks to remedy. Ever more extreme weather events - droughts, wildfires and floods - accelerate direct landscape degradation. So more and more crops are failing, while over-fishing and reckless trawling destroys the reproductive capacity of the marine life on which so many industries depend. It is vital that governments communicate that this law is not about 'saving nature' ... but about saving ourselves.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Only bureaucracy will thrive

The daily newspaper Welt doesn't believe the law will be an effective instrument:

“It foresees rigid specifications and quotas for municipalities, such as the expansion of green spaces and urban treetops, while at the same time the EU's 'Green Deal' calls for extensive cornfield deserts and wind turbines. Critics of the law had warned that conflicts between housing, industry, agriculture and nature could only be resolved locally, not from Brussels. In Germany in particular, where most large-scale projects are paralysed due to environmental concerns, further problems loom. For politicians, bureaucrats and affiliated environmental associations, nature conservation laws offer a proven justification for further scope for action. They will prosper, but biodiversity likely won't.”