- European Union countries agree on the common position on biodiversity law
- Countries are asking the European Union to find funding for nature’s measures
- Most natural habitats in the European Union are classified as having poor health
- Brussels is trying to save the bill amid a political backlash
LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – European Union environment ministers sealed agreement on Tuesday on a landmark bill to restore degraded natural habitats, after watering down parts of the proposal and agreeing to find more EU funding to repair damaged environments.
An EU proposal to change the deteriorating health status of Europe’s natural habitats — 81% of which are classified as in poor condition — has sparked intense political debate, with European lawmakers and some governments opposing the bill and questioning whether the EU is piling on too much. Environmental regulation on industry.
EU countries backed the bill but only after the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, agreed to propose EU financial support for nature’s revitalization measures, if it was found to be needed.
Hungary, Italy and Romania were among the countries seeking to increase support, while Germany opposed the creation of a new EU fund.
Countries have watered down parts of the committee’s original proposal.
One change might eliminate a commitment to ensure the health of mudflats, grasslands, forests, and other habitats is not degraded, and replace it with the goal of “endeavoring to put in place measures” to prevent it.
Another kind that would dilute the goals is to revive drained peatlands at the request of countries including Ireland, where drained bogs are cultivated and peat is used as fuel.
Irish Climate Minister Eamonn Ryan welcomed the compromise, saying it offered hope that “the destruction of nature is not inevitable”, while avoiding restrictions that would prevent countries from developing their economies.
However, the densely populated Netherlands has opposed the deal, after raising concerns that it would slow the expansion of wind farms and other economic activities. It was also opposed by Finland, Italy, Poland and Sweden.
“We can’t do everything at the same time and in the same limited space,” Dutch Nature Minister Christiaan van der Waal said.
The European Union’s climate chief, Frans Timmermans, told reporters he was not worried about states amending the law to make the law more flexible. But he criticized lawmakers in the European Parliament who are trying to block the law and refusing to negotiate.
EU countries and the European Parliament have to approve the final bill.
“It really saddens me that some try to frame climate politics in the culture wars. Because then you create a kind of tribal opposition. Once you get into a tribal opposition, the facts don’t matter,” Timmermans said.
The largest group of lawmakers in the European Parliament is leading a campaign to reject the law, arguing that providing more space for biodiversity-enhancing features on agricultural land would threaten food production.
More than 3,000 scholars have rejected these claims, but the future of the law remains shaky. A motion by EU lawmakers to reject the entire proposal failed last week by a very narrow margin, ahead of a full European Parliament vote in July.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett). Editing by Jonathan Otis, Gareth Jones, and Susan Fenton
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