AGRI and PECH committees voted for a full rejection of the Commission’s proposal for the EU Nature Restoration Law

Posted on 25 May 2023
During the votes on 23rd and 24th of May the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) of the European Parliament voted against farmers’ future and food security, together with it, the European Parliament Fisheries Committee showed blatant disregard for citizens’ concerns in a damning nature restoration stance.

With this opinion, the bulk of Members of Parliament is letting down their own constituency of farmers, who are facing the unprecedented impact of the collapse of our ecosystems and climate change. Once again, they chose to ignore all scientific evidence showing that if we want to ensure food security in the long run, we need to restore nature.

For months anti-nature lobbies have been leading a disinformation campaign. In these past voting days, this was extremely visible in the discussions and the outcome of the vote was not surprising. Instead of offering solutions to devastating floods and droughts that threaten farmers’ livelihoods and long-term food security, the AGRI Committee turned a blind eye to farmers’ problems.

Sofie Ruysschaert, Nature Restoration Policy Officer at Birdlife Europe and Central Asia:  “The European Parliament AGRI Committee has shown again that they prefer protecting the short-term economic interests of a handful of big agriculture and forestry lobbies rather than securing a safer future for us all. By ignoring the strong call from concerned citizens, NGOs, scientists, and progressive businesses to urgently restore nature, they are missing this unique opportunity and instead voted in favour of those who are responsible for its decline.” 

Sabien Leemans, Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office:  With this rejection, the majority of MEPs in the AGRI Committee are failing all citizens, including farmers. At times when Italy is devastated by flooding and Spain is experiencing severe droughts, this denial of what is happening in Europe is unacceptable. The science is clear that nature restoration will increase our resilience to such extreme weather events and support long-term food security. Meanwhile, the AGRI Committee is rejecting the legal proposal to restore nature! It is a totally irresponsible attitude that puts everyone’s livelihoods at risk, first and foremost the ones of farmers.”

Sergiy Moroz, Policy Manager for Water and Biodiversity at the European Environmental Bureau:  “The Parliament’s Agriculture Committee has just thrown into the bin EU’s nature restoration agenda, that would have ensured the long-term future of farming in Europe. They willingly chose to undermine the European Green Deal and the global commitments the EU has made. It is now up to their colleagues in the Environment Committee to vote for an ambitious Nature Restoration Law, that can help us bring back and improve ecosystems as our best allies to tackle both the biodiversity and climate crises, including coping with droughts, floods and heatwaves.”

Ioannis Agapakis, nature conservation lawyer at ClientEarth:  "Agriculture isn't separate to nature – it relies on it. Today's outcome shows that the Committee has either not fully grasped this, or chosen to ignore it. For the agricultural sector to survive, we need a healthy and resilient environment. Current restoration efforts are clearly inadequate to tackle the twin climate and biodiversity crisis – the point is to expand them. The Nature Restoration Law is an opportunity to take transformative action, but the Committee is squandering it. Today’s rejection of the Nature Restoration Law jeopardises the future of nature in the EU and is a reckless refusal to safeguard the EU’s agricultural sector and align it with the global biodiversity targets that the EU agreed to in Montreal last year.” 

Following the AGRI committee votes, the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) has entirely rejected the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) by a difference of just 1 vote (15 for rejection, 13 against). The NRL is the first EU law to set legally-binding targets to restore nature and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tackle the biodiversity and climate crises. This directly threatens the European Green Deal’s objectives of setting the EU on a path to a green and just transition.

Blue NGOs are now urging Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in the lead committee on this file – the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) – to listen to citizens and scientists, and uphold the European Commission’s proposal for the NRL in their vote on 15 June. The vote marks a legacy moment for MEPs, who have the opportunity to adopt legally-binding rules to restore damaged marine ecosystems, reverse biodiversity loss, and secure the long-term prosperity of coastal communities including fishers and tourism.

At the last European elections, climate and the environment were listed as top priorities for voters. Support for the environment remains high as we approach next year’s elections, with citizens and businesses calling for an ambitious NRL. However, members of conservative and liberal groups in the European Parliament, including the European People’s Party (EPP), the European Conservative and Reformists (ECR), and Renew Europe, along with the far right, have voted against restoring the ocean, undermining previous commitments they have made to tackle biodiversity loss. Today’s result reveals a blatant denial by MEPs from these groups of the climate and biodiversity crises, and complete disregard for the wishes of citizens across Europe. 

Today’s political shortsightedness puts the future of European fisheries and the health of our marine environment in real danger, with dire consequences for millions of people living and working in Europe. Investing in restoration is our best insurance for resilient food systems and integral to EU efforts to mitigate climate change. Businesses increasingly agree that restoring nature is crucial for their future survival.

Dr Antonia Leroy, Head of Ocean Policy at the WWF European Policy Office, said:This vote pushes the European Parliament one step closer to hacking off a limb of the European Green Deal, jeopardising our food security and a carbon-neutral future. While false narratives claim the Nature Restoration Law is a threat, in reality, it is the lack of thriving nature and our ocean’s degraded health that cause increased resource scarcity and threaten the EU’s goals for climate change mitigation. It’s now up to the Environment Committee and all MEPs in plenary to put the European Parliament on the right course for an ambitious and strong Nature Restoration Law.”

Tatiana Nuño, Senior Marine Policy Advisor at Seas at Risk, said: "By voting against the restoration of the ocean, conservatives and liberals in the European Parliament have sided with the far right to prop up the destructive industrial fishing lobby. The science is unequivocal - dying fish populations mean dying coastal communities, including fishers. The short-term financial gain of huge industrial fishers must not come at the price of the survival of the ocean and the health and prosperity of future generations. This is why we urge the European Parliament’s Environment committee to vote on the right side of history, which is a vote to restore nature." 

For blue NGOs, the outcome of this week’s vote confirms the need to modernise PECH into a broader Ocean Committee in the European Parliament. This will serve to integrate all relevant sectoral ocean policies beyond fisheries, such as tourism, transport and the protection of the marine environment, while giving more space to the voices of citizens and not only industry to be heard.

Next steps

ENVI – under the lead of Cesar Luena (Socialists & Democrats, Spain) – will vote on the NRL on 15 June, giving the proposed NRL a second chance to swim instead of sinking. 

The European Parliament plenary vote is scheduled for July or September. The report adopted in plenary will reflect the European Parliament’s agreed position during the subsequent trilogue negotiations with the European Commission and Council (representing Member States) to finalise the EU Nature Restoration Law. 

For more information: 

Ola Miklasińska, Communications Officer, Biodiversity  tel +32 456 37 60 64

Source: WWF EPO, click here and here.

Learn more about the Nature Restoration Law here.



The AGRI Committee turned a blind eye to farmers’ problems while devastating floods and droughts become more and more frequent

The AGRI Committee turned a blind eye to farmers’ problems while devastating floods and droughts become more and more frequent

© Canva

School of lesser sand eels (Ammodytes tobianus) swimming over an eelgrass (Zostera marina) seagrass meadow in shallow water.

School of lesser sand eels (Ammodytes tobianus) swimming over an eelgrass (Zostera marina) seagrass meadow in shallow water.

© / Alex Mustard / WWF