Published: 20:34, February 27, 2024 | Updated: 13:06, February 28, 2024
EU Parliament passes nature law despite political backlash
By Reuters

A general view of the European Parliament building, in Strasbourg, eastern France, on May 9, 2022. (PHOTO / AFP)

BRUSSELS — The European Parliament approved an EU flagship law to restore nature on Tuesday, salvaging at least part of its plans to protect the environment after farmers' protests ignited a backlash.

The vote took place after weeks of farmers protests across Europe, including a violent demonstration on Monday outside the European Union's headquarters in Brussels. Among the protesters' complaints are EU green policies that they say impose excessive bureaucracy onto farmers.

The nature policy is set to be one of the EU's biggest pieces of environmental legislation, requiring countries to introduce measures restoring nature on a fifth of their land and sea by 2030

EU lawmakers adopted the law with 329 votes in favour, 275 against and 24 abstentions.

READ MORE: EU fears for global biodiversity goal if own nature law not passed

It passed despite the European People's Party - the biggest lawmaker group in the EU Parliament - deciding at the last minute to oppose the law, which they said would subject farmers to more red tape.

The nature policy is set to be one of the EU's biggest pieces of environmental legislation, requiring countries to introduce measures restoring nature on a fifth of their land and sea by 2030.

It aims to reverse the decline of Europe's natural habitats - 81 percent of which are classed as being in poor health - and includes specific targets, for example to restore peatlands so they can absorb CO2 emissions and help curb climate change.

The policy now needs final approval from EU countries before it enters into force.

READ MORE: Countries launch fund to protect nature, UN calls for more money

That approval is usually a simple formality, and after Tuesday's vote the policy looks set to avoid the fate of other green policies that the EU has scrapped to appease the protesting farmers.

Earlier this month, the European Commission withdrew a proposed law to reduce pesticides and delayed an obligation for farmers to set aside more land to nature.

So far, those moves have failed to quell the farmers' protests. Some protest organizers say green policies are not the problem, and instead want the EU to take action to curb cheap food imports.