Obstructing the restoration of nature

The European Parliament is currently discussing the state of biodiversity within the European Union and the urgent need for its restoration. This is being done with reference to the proposal by the EU Commission for a regulation on nature restoration, an essential element of the Green Deal framework.

The accumulated damage inflicted by man on nature and natural processes is substantial. Irrespective of the way you look at it, at the end of the day this reflects itself on our quality of life. It is an impact on ecology and on the services which nature provides as an essential prerequisite for the existence of life itself. It is an impact on climate, on air quality and well as on agriculture and food production.

A dilapidated nature also substantially impacts the economy as has been most clearly shown by the independent review of the economics of biodiversity drawn up in February 2021 and led by Professor Sir Parta Dasgupta from the University of Cambridge. The protection and restoration of nature is an objective of various initiatives, not just on a European level, but more so on a global level as is evidenced by the workings of the Convention on Biodiversity signed as part of the agreed Rio  Earth Summit way back in 1992. In a Biodiversity Summit held at Montreal earlier this year, in March, the international community made a breakthrough on a treaty dealing with the health of the oceans in respect of which I have already written in these columns (TMIS 12 March 2023: Arvid Pardo’s legacy: rediscovering a maritime vocation.)

At an EU level there are various policies and regulations which guide member states on the sustainable way forward. Notwithstanding all this regulatory activity, biodiversity is in a worse state than ever.

Protection of biodiversity is works in progress. Unfortunately, it moves at a snail’s pace as it has to combat the resistance of those who do not have a long-term view: those who plot their actions on the basis of electoral polls, and not on what is right and proper.

The specific objective of the EU regulation on nature restoration is to restore degraded ecosystems across the EU through an effective coordination of existing legislation. This will contribute towards a timelier achievement of the climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation objectives of the EU.

The proposed nature restoration legislation sets targets for the restoration of terrestrial, coastal, freshwater and marine ecosystems. It also points to the requirement that there is no net loss of urban green space and of urban tree canopy cover. It addresses issues of water resources as well as the restoration of pollinator populations and agricultural ecosystems.

Member States shall prepare national restoration plans to identify the restoration measures that are necessary to meet these targets and obligations. €100 billion will be allocated by the EU for this measure.

The draft nature restoration regulation, voted upon in the EU Parliament’s Environment Committee on Thursday barely survived an onslaught coordinated by the European People’s Party (EPP) and its right-wing allies in the European Parliament.

The future of the nature restoration regulation is, at this point, uncertain. Being so close to the European Parliament elections, maybe, it is not the right time to debate. Corporate Europe Observatory, the European lobbying monitor, earlier this week reported that right-wing European political parties are determined to kill the remains of the Green Deal in a bid to gain business and farmers’ support in the forthcoming elections.

The recent Dutch election results, which made the brand-new BBB (‘Farmer-Citizen Movement’, an agrarian and right-wing populist party) the biggest political party in the Netherlands has electrified the EPP into opposing with increased intensity the implementation of the proposed Green Deal measures.

The future is definitely very murky. The longer we take to decide and act the less likely that future generations inherit a planet in which they can live. We have to act to restore and protect the little we have left, before it is too late.

Carmel Cacopardo
ADPD Deputy Chairperson
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 18 June 2023