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EU votes in favor of nature restoration

By CHEN WEIHUA in Strasbourg, France | China Daily | Updated: 2023-07-14 10:46

Members of the European Parliament react as they take part in a voting session on EU Nature Restoration Law during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on July 12, 2023. [Photo/VCG]

The European Parliament on Wednesday voted in favor of the EU Nature Restoration Law that aims to restore the ecosystem and combat climate change, despite strong opposition from its largest political group.

The vote was won by a thin margin with 336 MEPs in favor, 300 against and 13 abstentions.

Earlier, a motion to reject the legislation in its entirety had failed to gain enough support from lawmakers. "The Nature Restoration Law is an essential piece of the European Green Deal and follows the scientific consensus and recommendations to restore Europe's ecosystems," Cesar Luena, an MEP of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and a lead negotiator, said.

"Farmers and fishers will benefit from it and it ensures a habitable earth for future generations."

According to the European Parliament, the new law must contribute to reaching the EU's international commitment, particularly the United Nations' Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. MEPs support the European Commission's proposal to put restoration measures in place by 2030, covering at least 20 percent of all land and sea areas in the EU.

"We did it! We won the battle to save our biodiversity and our climate," the Greens/European Free Alliance said in a tweet on Wednesday.

MEPs will negotiate with EU member states to finalize the bill.

Conservative parties in the parliament, including the European People's Party, or EPP, had opposed the legislation.

'Good intentions'

"The Nature Restoration Law has good intentions, but would be a disaster for rural communities, farmers, fishermen and public authorities having to deal with the legal consequences," EPP said in a news release on its website.

Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP, which has 177 MEPs in parliament, told a press conference that "we have fought for our convictions and we came very close".

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, also an EPP member, has drawn criticism from left-wing MEPs for failing to publicly defend the proposal.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg attended a rally outside the parliament on Tuesday to support the nature restoration law. She told news site Politico after Wednesday's vote that this is "a bittersweet victory". "It's absurd that we have to fight for the bare minimum. Of course it's positive that the law went through, but it's so weakened now," she said.

The European Union is striving to become the first continent of climate neutrality by 2050, but its ambition has been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans expressed this week that the EU will push for a global pledge at COP28 to phase out unabated fossil fuels "well ahead of 2050". COP28, or the 2023 UN Climate Conference, will open in Dubai at the end of November.


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