13 June 2023
Nature Restoration Law: French President Macron’s RENEW group calls the shots for the future of Europe’s ecosystems
13 June 2023
On Thursday June 15th, Members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee will vote on a historic legislative proposal, a cornerstone of the European Green Deal, to restore and protect Europe’s ecosystems: the Nature Restoration Law.
At a time when the tragic effects of climate change are affecting our planet at an accelerating pace, when Canada is burning and New York is suffocating, when scientists are realizing that it is already too late to save Arctic summer ice, and when global warming is increasing at an unprecedented rate of more than 0,2°C per decade, the Nature Restoration Law, vital to protect the environment, restore ecosystem services, and adapt to climate change, is threatened in its very existence by an anti-ecological alliance of the Far-Right, the Conservative-Eurosceptic Right, and the Liberal Right.
After revealing European political groups’ overall ecological performance on June 6th, BLOOM publishes today the individual ecological performance of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee Members.
Ahead of the vote on June 15th, our ranking identifies those who can swing the vote in favor of protecting Europe’s ecosystems. The result is clear: all hopes are pinned on the RENEW group. But until now, RENEW has been part of the Right-wing and Far-Right front’s operation to sabotage the law.
Here is our analysis of the past events and of what is currently at stake.
Months of sabotage by an anti-ecological Right-wing alliance
For months, MEPs from the Far-Right (ID) and the Conservative, Eurosceptic Right (EPP and ECR), with the support of the Liberal Right (RENEW), which includes members of the Renaissance presidential party in France, have been sabotaging in due form the Nature Restoration Law.
During the votes in the European Parliament’s Agriculture (May 23rd) and Fisheries (May 24th) Committees, this anti-ecological alliance succeeded in avoiding parliamentary debates by rejecting the whole legislative text in one go.
On Thursday June 15th, it will be the turn of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee to examine the regulation before the Parliament’s plenary vote in July. However, during the final round of negotiations on May 31st on the “compromise amendments” that will be put to a vote Thursday June 15th, the RENEW group bargained its support in favor of the text’s adoption on one condition: sabotaging the last measures capable of saving the climate, biodiversity, and humanity. Thus, already weakened by constant blackmailing from the Right, the Far-Right and the Liberals, the text has lost the pivotal notion of non-deterioration of ecosystems as well as the essential mention of “strict protection”. The devil is in the details and the anti-ecological Right knows it.
The Environment Committee is no “greener” than the rest of Parliament
Our assessment reveals that the Environment Committee, composed of 171 members (88 members, 83 substitutes), is not in the slightest way “greener” than the rest of the Parliament. We find the same voting pattern by political group, with a clear divide between three highly polarized groups: the Ecological Left (the “Earth Champions”), with 66 MEPs, faces the 73 members of the Conservative, Eurosceptic Right (the “Destroyers of the Planet”). The 24 Liberals (the “Flips flops of Ecology”) are once again the ones who can make or break majorities, just like the eight “Non-attached” MEPs.
Within the EPP, some MEPs stand out as complete outliers, such as the Finnish Sirpa Pietikäinen, who scores 16/20. On Wednesday June 13th, Czech MEP Stanislav Polčák, who scores 10/20, announced his intention to adopt the Nature Restoration Law despite explicit threats of the EPP group directed at MEPs who would dare to side with the defense of the climate and nature. If such rare announcements multiply in the next 48 hours, we could hope for an unexpected turnaround after past negotiations punctuated by the EPP delegation’s grand declarations and door slamming.
The divided and incoherent RENEW group
The RENEW group has made the European Green Deal and the protection of nature two flagship commitments for the 2019-2024 term, arguing “for an ambitious European Green Deal and an effective Climate Law ” and calling on the EU to “step up the protection of nature through an ambitious 2030 Biodiversity strategy aimed at halting and reversing biodiversity loss in Europe and globally“. However, with scores ranging from 4/20 to 19/20, and an average score of 12/20, the Liberal bloc appears divided, incoherent, and lacking convictions when it comes to the environment. This finding surprisingly reflects in the Environment Committee, where a greater ecological commitment could be expected from its members.
Some RENEW MEPs score well above their group’s average (Michal Wiezik 19/20, RóżaThun und Hohenstein 18/20, Martin Hojsík 17/20, Giuseppe Ferrandino 16/20) but fail to neutralize the fiercely anti-environmental MEPs of their party (such as Asger Christensen 5/20, Andreas Glück 4/20, Jan Huitema 7/20, Ondrej Knotek 4/20 and Susana Solis Pérez 7/20). This handful of MEPs are precisely those who put great pressure on the Nature Restoration Law’s rapporteur, the Spanish socialist César Luena, to crush this text, crucial for nature and the climate.
RENEW’s decisive responsibility within the European Parliament
In the absence of a clear ecological position, the RENEW group is the privileged target of lobbies seeking to reduce environmental texts’ ambitions. The anti-environmental proselytism of a large part of the RENEW group (44 MEPs, almost half of RENEW’s MEPs, score under 10/201) ensures that these lobbies are attentively heard and effectively represented when an opportunity arises to torpedo European environmental standards from within.
The European group, founded by Emmanuel Macron after the last European elections, is headed by a French MEP close to the President, Stéphane Séjourné. Ultimately, he and Pascal Canfin, the Environment Committee’s President, bear the dual responsibility of not only passing the Nature Restoration Law, but also reinstating the ambitious amendments that were lost during the sabotage mission that has raged for the past months, to ensure that the text concretely and effectively renews the climate and nature.
A double test of fire for RENEW
The vote in the Environment Committee on June 15th and the plenary vote scheduled for the week of July 10th will be a test of fire for RENEW: these votes will allow us to judge the Liberal Right’s compatibility with the defense of non-negotiable environment and climate imperatives. After months of negotiations with disastrous consequences, Pascal Canfin finally seems to be getting round to the task. While on Twitter, he denounces the “political weakness” of the conservative Right that uses fear to control its group, the vote on the 15 June will reveal his ability to impose his “Soft Power” to his group.
To restore their group’s political coherence, the 24 RENEW MEPs must therefore do everything in their power to ensure the adoption of the most ambitious possible Nature Restoration Law.
The suspense is encapsulated in this question: will the anti-environmental MEPs from the Liberal RENEW group adopt or reject the text?
Results on the 15th June at noon.
 Findings from our ranking of all 705 Members of the European Parliament