No man’s land for the Nature Restoration Law

The Nature Restoration Law is on hold. The vote on this text, which is essential for the future of our ecosystems and the climate, started this morning at 8:30 a.m. in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee: neither rejected nor adopted, the vote was eventually suspended at 12:00 p.m., after three tense hours in which “44 against 44” tie votes followed one another. A situation that foreshadows the fierce battle that will be waged to win the final vote in the Environment Committee, scheduled for 27 June, before the plenary vote, currently scheduled for early July. 

The MEPs’ vote, which took place amidst an electric atmosphere and whose detailed result will be analyzed shortly by BLOOM, gives a telling picture of the state of political forces in the Parliament. As expected, the rejection or adoption of this major text hinged on the Liberal Right (the RENEW group formed by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2019). 

If the Liberal MEPs had a true environmental line, the text would have been adopted by a majority of at least 46 votes.[1] No surprises were to be expected from the Conservative Right and Far-Right, who openly waged a war of attrition against this European regulation capable of restoring our degraded, polluted and exhausted ecosystems at a time when healthy nature most needed to resist and fight climate change.

The RENEW MEP’s division, torn between the environmental emergency and their allegiance to lobbies, was reflected in this morning’s votes: many amendments were split between 44 votes “for” and 44 “against”, which equates to non-adoption.

Already undermined by the Right-wing anti-ecological alliance, the vote on this text should end on June 27, at which point we’ll know the final outcome in the Environment Commitee. Still, whatever happens, the text will have to be restored in plenary from the deep cuts that destroyed its ambition and scope.

The Traditional Right adds fuel to a world on fire

The Nature Restoration Law, the centerpiece of the European Green Deal, which proposes to restore at least 20% of Europe’s land and marine areas by 2030, and all degraded ecosystems by 2050, in order to combat climate change and the collapse of biodiversity, has been meticulously dismantled and relentlessly attacked by the anti-environmental groups in the European Parliament. Despite the widespread mobilization of civil society and scientists, a support statement from over 1,000 researchers, letters addressed to political institutions by the IUCN and the European Consortium of Natural History Museums and Botanic Gardens, as well as the publication of the environmental performance of the various European political groups and members of the Environment Committee, the ballot began with a rejection vote of 44 against 44, opening a long voting session, amendment by amendment. 

“The world is burning, Arctic summer ice is disappearing and Africa is turning into a desert, but MEPs from the European Right (EPP, ECR, RENEW) and Far-Right (ID), caught up in electoral considerations and short-term political manoeuvring, remain inflexible, deaf to the evidence, to science and to the climate catastrophe” observed Swann Bommier, BLOOM’s Advocacy Officer.

The text is situated in a no man’s land, suspended to a final vote in the Environment Committee on June 27, before the trench of 44 reckless MEPs. This limbo reveals the Liberal and Conservative Right’s irresponsibility, leveling up to  that of the Far-Right. 

The votes on the individual amendments, which we were able to follow from the Parliament in Strasbourg, will be analyzed by BLOOM.

The EPP’s existential concern is not the climate but power

A year ago, the European Right-wing set out on its fierce opposition against the Nature Restoration Law, before the European Commission even had time to release its legislative proposal. A press release from the EPP (the “European People’s Party”) opened the hostilities, castigating the legislation for allegedly “reducing European food production”. The Right held on to this flimsy line of argument, invalidated by objective facts and scientific research, as it needed a pretext to defend positions that were indefensible. However, as everyone knows, this deforming debate never went to the heart of the matter. 

One year ahead of the European elections and of the battle for the future Commission’s Presidency, the Nature Restoration Law was used as a stage for political confrontation, giving free rein to revenge, calculation and cronyism. For the Right, the existential issues at stake are not our world and societies’ durability, but rather the conquest of power. Even if it means creating a climate of terror within its ranks.

→ To go further, read : The European Right’s reign of terror

The Conservative Right’s climate of terror

Ahead of the vote in the Environment Committee, the EPP’s open war on the Nature Restoration Law took on a whole new level, with the group creating a real climate of terror, resorting to authoritarian and undemocratic methods to impose an inflexible anti-environmental line: threats of expulsion for any disagreeing MEP, dissent attempts nipped in the bud, replacement of rebel MEPs by radical anti-environmentalists, pressure from ministers in Right-wing governments, etc.

The damaging role of the RENEW group

The sheer relentlessness of the traditional Right (EPP) has given the Liberal Right (RENEW) a public pretext to distinguish themselves from the EPP, and suddenly pose as champions of nature conservation. This posture overlooks the fact that, under the guise of defending European farmers, it was indeed a shameful alliance between RENEW, the pivotal group in the European Parliament, and the anti-environmental reactionary forces which torpedoed the text and led to its outright rejection during earlier votes in the Agriculture (May 23) and Fisheries (May 24) Committees. It would also be short-sighted not to highlight the role of the RENEW MEPs who severely undermined the text’s ambition before today’s vote in the Environment Committee.

French RENEW MEP Pascal Canfin openly condemned the Right’s “fake news” in a LinkedIn post, writing “I am appalled to see the European Right drifting more and more towards the populism of the Far-Right, at the expense of nature, the economy, and farmers.” 

This opportunistic statement doesn’t hold up when one considers RENEW’s responsibility in the destruction of the Nature Restoration Law: for months, while the Environmental Left (Greens, S&D, The Left) sought at all costs to rally the Liberal Right RENEW group to its cause, the latter never publicly disassociated itself from the Right and the Far-Right, taking full advantage of the threat of a rejection to obtain new concessions, notably the exclusion of the principle of “non-deterioration” of ecosystems, or of the mention of “strict protection” of protected and restored areas.

Pascal Canfin was right to reiterate that “every vote counts during the Environment Committee and plenary sessions”, as it is indeed the fickleness of his own RENEW parliamentary group (renamed “The Flip Flops of Ecology” by BLOOM), which explains the psychodrama and the uncertainty around the adoption of this law, that, let’s not forget, is essential to save natural ecosystems and the climate.

→ See our ranking of the environmental performance of European political groups and members of the Environment Committee.

→ To go further, read : The Liberal Right’s toxic game

Major concessions from the Environmental Left to the Liberal RENEW group

In January 2023, MEPs Marie Toussaint, Yannick Jadot, Jutta Paulus and Grace O’Sullivan (Greens), Delara Burkhardt (S&D), Marina Mesure, Younous Omarjee, Anja Hazekamp, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace (The Left) and Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP)[2] tabled a series of key amendments for the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems. Responding to scientific recommendations, these amendments were designed to initiate a public policy for the immediate protection of the ocean, consistent with the environmental issues at stake, and for the benefit of small-scale and coastal fishing:

  • The protection of 30% of marine ecosystems, with one-third under “strict protection”;[3]
  • A ban on industrial fishing, particularly bottom trawling, in protected and restored marine areas;[4]
  • A ban on destructive fishing techniques;[5]
  • The exclusion of vessels over 25 meters from the 12-nautical-mile coastal strip, in the interests of ecosystems and coastal fishing;[6]
  • Etc.

However, these and other amendments were dismantled during the negotiations: 

  • As early as the 1st of March 2023, the first compromise amendments were already showing a clear setback for the environmentalist parties in the face of relentless pressure from the Right and the complicit Renew Liberal Right.
  • In mid-May, the reference to “strict protection” as a tool for protecting and restoring marine ecosystems was removed.
  • On 31 May, during the final round of negotiations, when the EPP slammed the door once and for all, it was the essential principle of “non-deterioration” of ecosystems that was shattered, among other significant setbacks, in an attempt to win over a majority of MEPs from the RENEW group. Only to learn, a few days later, that these final concessions did not guarantee a unanimous vote by the RENEW group in the Environment Committee.
  • The key amendments relating to marine protection ended up being “integrated” into a dangerous compromise amendment, stripped of any substance or constraint,[7] and adopted by the Environment Committee, thus leaving EU Member States free to perpetuate the French and European deception of so-called marine “protected” areas and extend it to “restored” areas. 

As a result of the undermining of any environmental ambition in the amendment by the anti-ecological Right-wing axis, the French imposture on so-called marine “protected” areas, in which industrial fishing now spends almost half its time, is set to continue.

The plenary vote as a last resort

At the end of a morning of dismal votes on the issues at stake in the Nature Restoration Act by the Environment Committee, the conclusion is bitter: the rallying of some MEPs from the RENEW group leaves this vital text in limbo until June 27, while failing to avoid a major dismantling.

Everything remains to be done before the plenary vote, scheduled for early July, to raise the ambition of this regulation designed to protect and restore European ecosystems.


[1] Number of MEPs by political grouping : ECR : 8, EPP : 22, Greens/EFA : 10, GUE/NGL : 6, ID : 8, NI : 4, Renew : 12, S&D : 18.

[2] In our assessment of the environmental performance and ranking of Members of the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee, Finnish MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen is the only EPP MEP to score well with 16.5/20. See our ranking here:

[3] Amendments 555, 556, 960, 962, 963, 1013.

[4] Amendments 964, 968, 969

[5] Amendments 1088, 1089, 1091

[6] Amendments 1025,1086, 1087, 1090

[7] Compromise amendment no. 11 simply calls on EU member states to “ensure the continuous, long-term and sustained effects of the restoration measures (…) through effective means, including, where appropriate, by the designation of protected areas, by the implementation of other effective area-based conservation measures, or by promoting private land conservation measures, taking into account the ecological requirements of the restored areas”.   

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