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EU nature law hangs in the balance after lawmaker walk-out

BRUSSELS — European Union plans to restore damaged natural ecosystems are hanging in the balance after the EU Parliament’s biggest lawmaker group walked out of negotiations on the rules.

European People’s Party (EPP) lawmakers walked out of negotiations on Wednesday on the proposal, which would set binding targets to restore damaged natural environments. The group said its concerns – which include that the law would reduce food production in Europe – had not been addressed.

National Post

Yet lawmakers from other political groups said they had reached a compromise deal with enough support to pass a Parliament committee vote on June 15.

“In order to challenge and tackle the second big ecological crisis, which is the biodiversity crisis, we need to have this nature regulation,” Terry Reintke, co-head of the Green lawmaker group said on Thursday.

It is not clear, however, if the law will survive a July vote in the full EU Parliament.

The proposal aims to tackle a rapid decline in species numbers and in the health of Europe’s ecosystems. But it has sparked a fierce political debate, with leaders including Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo questioning whether the EU is pushing through too much environmental regulation and tangling industries in red tape.

Still, a majority of EU lawmakers could block the law. The EPP represents only 177 of the Parliament’s roughly 700 lawmakers, meaning it would need backing from other groups to sink it.

EPP lawmaker Christine Schneider said in a statement on Wednesday the group supported restoring nature, but that the European Commission’s proposal was “simply not good enough.”

The proposal would require countries to introduce measures to restore nature in 20% of their land and sea. Separate targets would, for example, require countries to maintain green spaces in cities, or revive dried peatlands.

Scientists including the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have urged countries to restore natural ecosystems that can store CO2 and reduce the impact of extreme weather like floods.

Individual EU countries, which must also approve the law, are negotiating amendments, including one to make clear that they can continue economic activities in areas where nature is being restored. (Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by David Holmes)