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Tim Mohin: Green Deal Continues – Nature Restoration Law Approved

Tim Mohin: Green Deal Continues – Nature Restoration Law Approved

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After the rightward turn in Europe’s elections last week, few people thought that the EU would continue its streak of leadership sustainability policies. In a surprise move, the environment ministers approved a landmark nature restoration law this week. This ambitious policy aims to restore 20% of EU land and sea by 2030.

Environmental campaigners had pressured EU ministers to pass the bill to fulfill their signing of the UN biodiversity treaty in Montreal in 2022, but it seemed doomed after multiple countries made last-minute withdrawals of support back in March. 

In a dramatic turn this week, Slovakia and an apparent “rogue minister” from Austria changed their position, providing the votes for approval. The Austrian environment minister Leonore Gewessler said, “In 20 or 30 years, when I will talk to my two nieces and show them the beauty of our country and of this continent, and they ask me: ‘What did you do when everything was at stake?’ I want to be able to tell them: ‘I tried to support as much as I could.’”

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer was furious, filing a complaint with the EU Court of Justice and sending a letter to Belgium, which holds the current EU rotating presidency, seeking to annul the vote. He claimed his environment minister’s vote was ‘unlawful’ and did not reflect the will of the Austrian people. However, the Belgian government confirmed that Gewessler’s vote was binding, and the law had passed.

EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said, “The time for political and ideological discussion is over… Now, let’s get on with the job.” The bill will require member states to protect pollinators, plant more than 3 billion trees, and restore key ecosystems. 

Green Deal Back on the Table

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In another sign that the EU’s Green Deal may still have life, the European Council agreed on a series of proposals aimed at protecting consumers from greenwashing. These proposals set requirements for companies to substantiate and verify claims and labels regarding the environmental attributes of products and services. 

Also, there is a chance that Ursula Von Der Leyen could form a coalition with the Green party to secure a second term in the upcoming EU presidential elections. The alternative is that she aligns with the far right to get into power, which former Greens President Philippe Lamberts said would be “the end of the Green Deal, period,” but that remains unlikely.

Related Article: Tim Mohin: What the EU Elections Mean for Sustainability


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