Although the draft law on the Nature Restoration Law dates back to May 2022, not only has the law not yet been approved, but it risks being further delayed and weakened. Let’s take a step back and try to understand how this process began and what has happened in the past year.

Nature Restoration Law: its origins and what provides for

The draft law for nature restoration was initially proposed by the European Commission in May 2022, aiming for the regeneration of at least 20% of European nature and habitats.

Considering that currently 80% of Europe’s habitats are in poor conservation status, this draft law set ambitious but essential goals for protecting and restoring what we have been destroying for years.

Fortunately, the importance of the law was immediately recognized, and it was decided to make the goals and obligations of the Member States legally binding, unlike other regulations.

However, in 2023 the European Council reviewed and modified the law, granting more flexibility to the Member States and reducing previous burdens, effectively seeking ways to make the measures less binding.

The draft law that reached the European Parliament last July was thus weaker than the one proposed by the European Commission but still faced potential defeat: it narrowly passed with 336 votes in favor and 300 against.

After passing in Strasbourg, the regulation unfortunately suffered a new setback in March 2024 because the Member States did not achieve the necessary majority for final approval: Italy was among the countries that opposed it. Why have there been these stop and modifications?

The Setback and Protests

On February 27, the adoption of the Nature Restoration Law seemed decided with 329 votes in favor, 275 against, and 24 abstentions. The next step would have been adoption by the European Council, followed by implementation by national governments. However, on March 25, the final vote was postponed after some Member States withdrew their support.

The main cause of this decision lies in the pressure on governments resulting from farmers’ protests, which started in Germany at the beginning of the year and spread across Europe in the following months.

The reasons for the strikes varied from country to country but were driven by common factors such as rising fuel prices, demands for revising the European Green Deal, criticism of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) subsidy policies, limits on pesticide use, and competition from non-EU imports.

Many businesses in the sector are indeed facing severe economic difficulties: between 2005 and 2020, 5.3 million farms in Europe ceased operations.

The Situation in Italy

Meloni government claims to support farmers’ associations and describes the Green New Deal policies as inappropriate: this is why Italy was among the countries that opposed the nature restoration law in March, along with Sweden, the Netherlands, and Hungary.

Environmental and organic farming associations, on the other hand, side with the European Green Deal, believing that the solution lies in the ecological transition and highlighting concerns about political manipulation of protests ahead of the June European Elections.

Moreover, Cambiamo Agricoltura coalition reports that the outcome of the 2023-2027 CAP reform has confirmed support for intensive farming and livestock through subsidies that favor large companies over small ones, with over 80% of funds going to just 20% of European farms.

According to the coalition, the solution could be found in European strategies such as Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030, supporting an increase in agricultural areas dedicated to organic farming, which is more profitable for farmers and has production costs less dependent on the variability of oil and gas prices.

An End or a Starting Point?

Europe cannot afford to lose biodiversity, and this would be particularly deleterious for Italy, which has the greatest biological diversity in the EU. With the European Elections in June approaching, implementing the law would be important to demonstrate progress, not only for nature regeneration but also for adapting to and mitigating ongoing climate change, in line with the Agenda 2030 goals.

We hope that the Nature Restoration Law can be carried forward and improved to protect not only natural heritage but also human health.

Article by Giorgia Ivan and Lorena Piccinini, Italian Climate Network volunteer

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