On November 9, the European institutions met to reach a provisional agreement on the text of the European nature restoration law. The Biodiversity Coalition is left with mixed feelings. “We are pleased that the agreement once again includes all the ecosystems that were originally included in the bill, but the articles have been watered down compared to the European Commission’s proposal and the position of the Council. It is disappointing to see that many exceptions have been included and that the obligations for Member States are too flexible.”
Last spring, party political games at Belgian and European level almost prevented a European nature restoration law from seeing the light of day. This turbulent episode ended with the adoption of a much watered-down compromise proposal on the law by the European Parliament in July. The three European institutions then had to look for a consensus that took shape in yesterday’s preliminary agreement.
It is now up to the Member States to make their final judgment on the legal text. Last spring, Belgium did not fully support the law, mainly due to opposition from the Flemish side. The Biodiversity Coalition is now calling for full support. “Despite the many concessions, this preliminary agreement is an important starting point for making nature in Belgium and Europe healthy again.” says Reine Spiessens biodiversity policy officer WWF Belgium and coordinator of the Biodiversity Coalition.
“To the Flemish government to take responsibility and support the proposal so that Belgium can take a positive position in the EU Council of Ministers. To our Flemish representatives in the EU Parliament to vote in favor of the compromise text and to commit themselves to the interests from all of us,” says Anja Delief, Policy Officer at Natuurpunt.
A necessity for the climate and our society
It is imperative to restore Belgian nature, as 95% of our natural habitats are in a poor state of conservation. A healthy natural environment is our best ally against the climate crisis: natural ecosystems such as forests, oceans and wetlands have absorbed 54% of human CO2 emissions over the past decade. A healthy natural environment can also provide better protection against extreme weather conditions such as floods and drought. Biodiversity is also fundamental to our food security. Nearly 75% of all crops worldwide that produce fruits and seeds for human consumption depend on pollinators. In addition, it is estimated that more than 50% of global GDP is dependent on nature and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), poor environmental quality is responsible for one in eight deaths. The benefits of nature restoration are on average ten times higher than the costs.
Broad social support
More than 1 million European citizens, including more than 33,500 Belgians, have already signed for the law. At the same time, more than 6,000 scientists, 100+ companies, more than 200 NGOs and countless climate activists from across Europe pushed for this much-needed law.
Let us also not forget that during the BeWild conference, organized by WWF on October 19, all Walloon political parties expressed their support for the restoration of 30% of degraded natural habitats by 2030. The Biodiversity Coalition hopes that Flanders will now show the same commitment .
It’s Belgium’s turn
Our ministers must respect the international commitments on nature that Belgium has entered into. For example, Belgium co-approved the global biodiversity agreement at COP15 in Montreal last year. The European Nature Restoration Act helps implement this agreement.
Not only the ministers, but also the Belgian members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee – Frédérique Ries (MR), Maria Arena (PS), Sarah Matthieu (Green) and Cindy Franssen (CD&V) – will have to vote on the text at the end of November . This vote will also be decisive for the law.
Finally, Belgium will be President of the Council of the EU from January and as a country we have the opportunity to successfully guide this law across the finish line and thus break with the past of degradation and offer the European environment a brighter future.
The Biodiversity Coalition calls on all our political representatives to take their responsibility and support a law that, despite its shortcomings, will benefit biodiversity, the climate and society.
About the Belgian Biodiversity Coalition
The Belgian Biodiversity Coalition is a partnership of WWF, BOS+, Greenpeace, Natagora, Natuurpunt, Canopea and Bond Beter Leefmilieu. The coalition’s mission is to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity in Belgium and its footprint areas through joint advocacy among Belgian federal and regional political decision-makers.