By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The biggest lawmaker group in the European Parliament on Wednesday walked out of negotiations on a landmark EU law to protect nature, dealing another blow to the contested proposal.
The European Commission is attempting to salvage the planned law, which would set binding targets to restore damaged natural environments – hoping to reverse the rapid decline in species and health of ecosystems across the continent.
Political backlash against the proposal has mounted, however, with some governments and farming groups citing concerns about excessive red tape and the impact on farmers.
French President Emmanuel Macron has suggested a pause on new EU environment legislation, while Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo questioned whether the nature law is needed. Meanwhile, the European People’s Party – EU Parliament’s largest lawmaker group – has called to reject it.
EPP lawmakers on Wednesday walked out of negotiations on the law. The group said in a statement it was withdrawing from the talks because its concerns had not been addressed.
“The law was poorly drafted in the first place and is an attack on European agriculture, forestry and fisheries,” EPP lawmaker Christine Schneider said in a statement.
Green lawmaker Jutta Paulus, who was present in the meeting on Wednesday, said the move ignored the urgency of the ecological crisis and was “endangering our and future generations’ livelihoods”.
The nature law needs approval from both EU countries and the EU Parliament, which is scheduled to vote on it in July.
Two Parliament committees have already rejected the law, signalling a tough vote in the full assembly is ahead.
The proposal would require countries to introduce measures to restore nature in 20% of their land and sea. Brussels says that is crucial to help countries cope with worsening climate impacts like floods and drought, by improving the land’s ability to absorb water and avoid soil erosion.
So far, EU countries have not attempted to block the proposal outright, but are negotiating amendments.
These include, for example, rules to ensure they can still build wind farms and continue other economic activities in areas where nature is being restored.