Daily Briefing

Editor’s note: rightwing MEPs try to torpedo EU Nature Restoration Law

Scenic view of green grassland river valley
The rightwing MEPs are insisting measures to better protect and restore biodiversity could threaten farmers’ livelihoods and push up food prices (Photo: CreativeNature_nl/Envato)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

Life is anything but boring in Brussels at the moment. While the shenanigans over the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive continue, a band of MEPs are attempting at the eleventh hour to bring down the planned EU Nature Restoration Law

Normally, the vote by the European parliament on the law on February 26 should be a rubber-stamping exercise, but the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and the Identity and Democracy Group, which include various far-right parties, have taken the unusual and, say environmental campaigners, troubling step of tabling a very last-minute amendment calling for the proposal to be rejected.  

The text on which MEPs should vote next week is already a “carefully negotiated compromise”, in the words of Sabien Leemans, senior biodiversity policy officer at the World Wide Fund for Nature’s European policy office. This is putting it mildly. The compromise was roundly criticised when agreed in November 2023 as being littered with loopholes after coming under significant attack from rightwing politicians insisting measures to better protect and restore biodiversity would threaten farmers’ livelihoods and push up food prices. 

Next Tuesday’s vote will be taking place in Strasbourg, just as tractors roll, once more, into Brussels as certain farmers attempt to push for further legislative “simplification” (generally code for a weakening of environmental laws) from farm ministers meeting in the EU capital. 

Better news is coming out of the UK this morning, where climate and human rights campaigners are celebrating the government’s decision to withdraw from the controversial Energy Charter Treaty “after the failure of efforts to align it with net zero”.

“Remaining a member would not support our transition to cleaner, cheaper energy, and could even penalise us for our world-leading efforts to deliver net zero,” said UK energy security and net zero minister Graham Stuart in a statement.

Tom Wills, director of the non-profit Trade Justice Movement, described the decision as fantastic”, and said he hoped it would be “the first step in making sure UK trade and investment agreements align with broader ambitions on climate and human rights”.

Set up in the early 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the treaty is roundly criticised for being incompatible with efforts to reduce emissions and create a global clean energy economy. France, Spain, the Netherlands and several other EU countries have already left, and the European Commission is proposing the EU as a whole quits 

In more personal news, as you may have seen on LinkedIn, since yesterday I have been entrusted with carrying on the amazing work initiated by Silvia at Sustainable Views as editor of this esteemed publication. We’ll be announcing the full updated editorial team soon. In the meantime, do get in touch with any thoughts about Sustainable Views and any subjects you would like to see us covering in more detail.

My first day as editor was not a quiet one, with a plethora of reports and announcements.

Claudia reports on the latest attempt by ClientEarth, supported by Belgian and Dutch non-profits, to halt the construction of the “Ineos Project One” ethane cracker in the port of Antwerp, Belgium. The factory would fuel more plastic production despite the urgent need to cut plastic pollution, says ClientEarth lawyer Tatiana Luján. “Plastics are made from fossil fuels and their production is catastrophic for the climate at every stage.”

The Paris-based Institute for Climate Economics is the latest organisation to highlight the EU’s lack of investment in the energy transition. It is calling for the EU to double investments ahead of 2030 to meet climate goals, estimating its annual climate investment deficit at €406bn. European commission president Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, set up during the coronavirus pandemic, had offered support “like never before” for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. If elected for a second term, as she hopes, she will be under pressure to do much more to boost clean energy investment. 

According to a bunch of non-profits, it is not just finance that is missing from Europe’s net zero plans, but also a lack of will to wean itself off Norwegian gas. A report launched in the European parliament yesterday argues the EU has a “noticeable void” around measures to cut oil and gas consumption.

Meanwhile, Swiss academics say raw material demand will double globally by 2050, and the EU should adopt circular economy principles to reduce the need for new materials and to help it meet its climate targets. 

Until tomorrow,

Philippa

Philippa Nuttall is the editor of Sustainable Views 

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