The EU approves the controversial law of nature (and without collapsing Santa’s house)

The EU approves the controversial law of nature (and without collapsing Santa’s house)

Brussels It was supposed to be another law of the ecological plan of the European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen, but the right and the extreme right made it their workhorse and the regulation of the restoration of nature has ended being one of the most controversial of this legislature. However, after months and months of back and forth, the Council of the European Union has finally approved it this Monday.

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We explain how it got here and what are the key points of this initiative.

What allowed it to finally be approved?

Different member states blocked the final approval of the regulations, but Austria has changed its mind on the eve of the EU Environment Council this Monday. With its yes, a qualified majority has been reached and the Twenty-seven have ratified it.

However, this change in position has caused a major government crisis in Vienna. The Austrian Environment Minister, the environmentalist Leonore Gewessler, voted in favor of it, but her government partners, the conservative ÖVP, completely refused. For this reason, the Austrian chancellor, the Christian Democrat Karl Nehammer, has said that he will denounce Gewessler for abuse of power and has left the continuity of the executive up in the air.

Instead, the minister has come out to defend the initiative bluntly. “In 20 or 30 years, when I show the beauty of our country to my granddaughters and they ask me what I did, I will tell them that I did everything I could to preserve it,” he said in statements to the media.

Why has it been such a controversial law?

The measure was promoted by the then vice-president of the European Commission and head of the Green Agenda, the social democrat Frans Timmermans. At first, the European People’s Party (EPP) did not oppose it and also had the approval of Von der Leyen.

However, in the face of strong opposition from the extreme right and the growing anti-environmental wave in the EU before the European elections, the president of the EPP, Manfred Weber, launched a major campaign against the initiative to prevent, as pointed out by the polls, more votes – especially rural ones – would slip away to the ultra-right.

In fact, the European Parliament group of the EPP tried to get it blocked on different occasions in the European Parliament, although without success. Finally, it was also approved in the Eurochamber at the end of last year by a fairly narrow majority: 329 votes in favor, 275 against and 24 abstentions. The Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left celebrated it as a great victory.

What is the purpose of the measure?

The measure aims to restore at least 20% of the land and marine areas of the European Union by 2030 and all degraded ecosystems by 2050. In this way, the EU bloc aims to get closer to the climate goals with which has committed to: reducing 55% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieving climate neutrality by 2050. To increase the carbon uptake by plant masses, and so that nature is more resistant to the impacts of the climate emergency, it is necessary to restore the habitats of forests, meadows and wetlands that are now degraded.

In fact, according to data from the European Commission itself, 80% of the habitats on the European continent are damaged. Of these degraded habitats, the regulations state that 30% must be restored by 2030, 60% by 2040 and 90% by 2050. This is to comply with the agreement on biodiversity approved by the UN in 2022 , known as the 30×30 or the Kunming-Montreal treaty.

What does Santa have to do with it?

The EPP campaign against the measure promoted by Von der Leyen was very intense and the conservatives published various alarmist messages which, for example, claimed that the regulation would make the Finnish city of Rovaniemi disappear, where it saw Father Christmas, because “he would turn it all into forests and natural areas”. “Don’t throw Santa out of his house,” cried a tweet from the official EPP account, in which you can see a retouched photo of the then Social Democrat commissioner Frans Timmermans.

Although the regulations in no way envisage evicting people from their homes – not even Santa Claus – or emptying cities, the EPP campaign raised a lot of dust and became famous, at least in the bubble of the European institutions in Brussels. the

2024-06-17 16:33:39
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