Nature Restoration Law: It's time for decisions, not old-fashioned politics

> More ambition and a real horizon for the future, for our planet and the citizens is needed.

Jul 11, 2023
Green landscape photo

Last week, the planet registered its hottest day since records began for the third time in just four days. If this is not enough to ring any and all alarm bells, decades worth of scientific evidence, the increasing frequency of devastating climatic effects and the ongoing biodiversity loss should. Despite all of this, the European Parliament is facing a false dilemma this Wednesday: choosing between restoring nature or securing food for humans. Spoiler: they go hand in hand. 

The Commission’s proposal for a law on nature restoration comes after years of failing to meet a voluntary target to restore 15 % of degraded ecosystems in the EU by 2020. It turned out to be a useless target to act on during a period known as the 6th wave of mass extinction. A mass extinction which the WWF describes as “driven by human activity” and which has the potential to severely reduce humanity’s capacity to produce food. So the Commission has acted and presented a more effective tool to remedy the situation: a binding law.

However, the showdown the European Parliament expects in Strasbourg is not only about ignoring citizens’ real problems in favour of a deeply flawed and misguided argument. It is also about the capability of the European Parliament to adopt legislation and to exercise its mission. 

According to the centre-right and extreme right parties under the leadership of the European People’s Party, it is impossible to amend the Commission’s proposal for the Nature Restoration Law so that it reflects ‘the will of the Parliament’. We hear that the Commission should present a new proposal. Isn’t this an astonishing argument from elected politicians who otherwise promise their citizens to bring about solutions? Is that the ambition we can and should expect from Members of Parliament whose task it is to represent citizens and society?

This right-wing alliance claims that “the proposal was supposedly bad in the first place and that [their] concerns remain unanswered”. When, in fact, they should have cooperated with other political parties to elaborate a common position reflecting that nature is humanity’s joined and shared public good and responsibility.

This form of attempted takeover by the far-right and centre-right of the EU Green Deal agenda is not compatible with the current challenges of the 21st century.

Man and nature are already paying the price for the time lost through inaction. In reality, two thirds of the protected species in the EU have a poor conservation status. According to the European Environment Agency, current agricultural practices cause the greatest pressure on habitats and species. In fact, farming practices of today are at odds with both biodiversity and climate change mitigation, as greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector have only increased in the 2020s, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization.

One asks why, one year ahead of the elections, Members of the Parliament prefer to look like helpless figures in the face of a mighty Commission, instead of rolling up their sleeves and do what they are elected for: working within a spirit of cooperation to craft and draft the basis for a better, more prosperous, and climate and nature-friendly European Union. What are they afraid of? 

We have already lost too much time to act, and the longer we wait, the more difficult the cuts will be and the higher the spending for a correction. Letting the 2020s turn into another wasted decade would usher in an era of crisis, emergency and adjustment in an unpredictable unbalanced world.

Time is running out and the world doesn’t have time for old-fashioned politics anymore. In light of the overwhelming scientific evidence that we have only a short time left to avoid the worst-case scenarios of climate change and destruction of our natural habitats, why are our decision-makers remaining hesitant?

If the last elections were dominated by the Fridays for Future, it appears now that the discourse is dominated by political forces attempting to cancel our future.

This procrastinating, deviating and denying make it difficult for many citizens to understand what is the way forward in the climate crisis. The lack of leadership and clear communication leaves citizens questioning the analysis and consequences of the Paris Agreement, instead of empowering them to take action now. This attitude of elected representatives is unconstructive and short-sighted. It increases citizens‘ distrust in democratic institutions and encourages extremist views. 

There is still a possibility that we can get citizens back on track for change, to make the energy transformation happen, preserve the blue planet for our children, and prevent the looming climate catastrophe. However, for that we need leaders that don’t refuse to act. We need European politicians who can forge new alliances across parties and borders to face common challenges and who are willing to leave old politics and recipes behind.

This also includes the will to organise the financial means for the transformation of our economies, including agriculture, and for the social dimension of this transformation to leave nobody behind. There should be no illusion that we would be able to save money at the expense of nature restoration or mitigating climate change. We will all lose if the planet becomes unlivable. For the last 20 years, we have already paid 2% of GDP each year to cover the costs of climate change.

Yet in the European Parliament, there are still representatives willing to pave the way for change. These are members who stand for more and better European cooperation and entering into discussions with citizens for real representation. We need more MEPs that guide citizens so that they can make informed decisions and not fall victim to fake news.

Today, we call on all political forces in the EP to prevent the further destruction of our habitat and all other creatures, and to vote in favour of the Nature Restoration Law, albeit in an amended form. Let's not waste any more precious time. Let's not waste our future. We need action and ambition now. 

Volt Belgium

With input of E. Schulze and S. Carp