EU Parliament in test of global climate change credibility

Protesters and legislators gathered at the EU parliament on Tuesday as the bloc faced a key vote to defend its threatened nature and protect it from disruptive environmental change, in a test of the EU’s global climate credentials. Inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg, hundreds of protesters were set to demand that the European Union push forward a bill to promote the restoration of nature in the 27-nation bloc, which has been damaged during decades of industrial expansion.

Inside the legislature in Strasbourg, France, lawmakers fiercely debated whether to table the plan ahead of a vote on Wednesday. The legislature’s environment committee was deadlocked 44-44 on it last month.“We urge them not to reject it but vote for the strongest law. To mitigate the climate crisis and prevent biodiversity loss, we must #RestoreNature,” Thunberg wrote on her Twitter feed.
The bill is a key part of the EU’s acclaimed European Green Deal which seeks to set the world’s most ambitious climate and biodiversity targets and make the bloc the global reference point on all climate issues.

The plans, proposed by the EU’s Executive Commission, set binding restoration targets for specific habitats and species, aiming to cover at least 20 per cent of the region’s land and marine areas by 2030. The EU’s Executive Commission wants nature restoration to be an important part of the legislation system as it is necessary to have maximum input for the overall deal. Others say that if the EU fails on the nature restoration law, it will signal overall fatigue on climate issues. The bill has long seemed like an antidote because it had widespread support in member states and was staunchly defended by the EU’s Executive Commission and its President, Ursula von der Leyen.

But von der Leyen’s political group, the Christian Democrat European People’s Party, baulked at this and now strongly opposes it, claiming it will affect food security and reduce farmers’ incomes. As the largest group with 177 seats in the 705-seat legislature, its opposition has been instrumental in turning the issue into a heated political debate. “For the EPP group, no other outcome than the rejection of the law is acceptable. EPP MEP Christine Schneider said, “We want to protect nature, but this law is badly drafted and wrongly conceived.” Member states have already agreed to support a slightly more flexible version of the bill by a larger majority and the two institutions will sit down in the second half of the year to finalize the framework if parliament backs the plan on Wednesday.

If parliament rejects the plan on Wednesday, it will have to be sent back to the drawing board and nothing is likely to emerge before EU parliament elections in June next year. And it will undermine the EU’s credibility abroad because it has invested so much in its acclaimed Green Deal. The Green Deal includes a range of measures from reducing energy consumption to sharply cutting transport emissions and reforming the EU’s trading system for greenhouse gases. In addition to environmental protesters, hundreds of international scientists and even a large group of multinational companies have called for the adoption of an EU nature restoration law.

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