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Nature Restoration Law barely survives vote in the European Parliament

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By Arvea Marieni

· 7 min read

Today, the European Parliament's Environment Committee barely voted down a motion seeking to reject the “Nature Restoration Law”, a bill that would set legally binding targets to rehabilitate degraded habitats and lost species. The motion, tabled by the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), would severely jeopardise the EU’s ability to implement the international 2030 commitments made under the landmark UN Biodiversity Convention.

The NRL is a key piece of the European Green Deal, the grand change management strategy, which will convert the industrial, financial and economic structures of the Eu into more sustainable, climate-neutral and resource-efficient operating systems. 

EU environmental targets are enshrined in the law 

The complex legislative package of the Green Deal represents the implementation of commitments that the European Union and all member states have made through international agreements. 

A pathway already made legally binding by Regulation 2021/1119, the European Climate Law, which defines the EU's obligation to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and the intermediate target of a 55% emissions reduction by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). The European Climate Law was voted on and approved by the Member States meeting in the Council.

This means that no government disputes the necessity, purpose, modalities, and urgency of these commitments, which must be implemented promptly to ensure the security of our social, economic, and industrial systems. This is the state of affairs, beyond the unhinged cries of the many lobbies and some political representatives.

Big business backs nature against EPP’s climate brinkmanship 

So how did the NRL become a battleground between political forces? The answer lies in the maneuvering of parties seeking to reposition themselves in view of the upcoming European elections. Palace games with which some tried to disentangle/separate the Populars from the Social Democrats in view of new alliances.

But this time something new has happened. Faced with the worsening climate and environmental crisis that is causing growing and increasingly costly damage, to counter the prevailing disinformation, environmental associations have sought and found an unprecedented alliance with significant parts of European industry. In just a few days, groups such as Business for Nature launched a targeted communication, information, and lobbying campaign against members of the European Parliament and political representatives.

While it is not the first time that individual companies have taken 'green' positions, this time the scale and strength are different/new and came as a surprise to many MEPs. More than 1400 companies with a turnover of over 5 trillion lined up in defence of the NRL. Among them is also a significant piece of Italian industry: the 17 companies that are members of the Regenerative Society Foundation, totaling together almost 5 billion euros in turnover. The Foundation participates in the activities of the Business and Biodiversity platform promoted by the European Commission.

Many of the members are important brands of the renowned Italian agri-food sector. Behind them is the weight and value of the national supply chains in an area of undisputed excellence. Including small farm-holders and craftspeople.   

These are businesses that operate in territories already threatened by climate change and compounded ecological crises, such as the alarming loss of biodiversity, soil degradation, intense and recurring drought, floods, and pollution. 

Companies that yesterday took a stand with a letter sent to the members of the ENVI Committee, as well as other European policy representatives. The text bears the signature of RSF co-president, Italian coffee entrepreneur Andrea Illy

Beyond the Foundation's official position, I wish to put my two cents on why these companies, like the other 1400 I mentioned, are taking action. I will do it in a personal capacity, despite serving as the Technical Director for the Regenerative Society Foundation.

The business case for nature: green business is good business

As entrepreneurs, CEOs and executives, these business leaders observe every day that the alarming deterioration of the environment, ecosystems, and natural capital, is already impacting their company’s operations and the financial bottom line.

Nature and the availability of resources and ecosystem functions (water, air, soil) set the boundaries of business operations. Ignoring this fact is the cause of today's crisis. 

Our economic system fails to recognise the value of the essential resources on which everything depends. Neither does it integrate the true costs and externalities of business operations. This marks the limits of classic economic models. This is a fundamental market failure. Simply said, without nature, there is simply no business possible.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, climate change is simply bad business. And the consequence of bad business management. 

You consume natural capital without reintegrating it. Your accounts are overdrawn. What business could keep up afloat under such conditions? 

As the ecological crises accelerate at an alarming rate, the very existence of a safe operating space for our business, as well as our societies, is at risk. 

The environment is not a party issue. “There is no ecologist more convinced than a conservative.” Georgia Meloni 

On the other hand, keeping the ecosystems we depend upon in balance is not a political issue along party lines and it should not become prey to petty maneuvering.

Care for the place, environment, family, and traditions are longstanding conservative principles, as well as progressive aspirations. And they are the basis of good living, collective well-being, and a healthy economy. 

This is a perspective referred to at times by Giorgia Meloni in her speeches on the environmental policies of her party.

Responding to rural anger with a new green social pact

Regenerative practices, much like the energy transition to ubiquitous renewable sources, moreover, strengthen the freedom, resilience and autonomy of farmers and producers, and the security of our food systems.

The undeniable economic disparities and the squeezing/compression of the rights of small farmer holders in Europe and elsewhere, as well as the social threat posed by the erosion of farm incomes, are the consequences of faulty market design and the way margins are distributed.

Once again, as in the case of the electricity market, this is an issue to be resolved with appropriate pricing policies, new tax rules and a different functioning model for the markets. Today, these are designed to favour certain production factors and economic-productive categories to the detriment of others. Changing the industrial regime and trade flows requires adapting and upgrading these rules. The success of the ecological transition depends on this.

It is up to good politicians to emphasise the benefits of this transformation, which the market is beginning to understand. The ecological transition represents great potential for the establishment of more equitable economic mechanisms. Explain these, and you will find the support you need.

Forward-looking leaders could seize the opportunity and win voters 

Responsible political leaders could seize the opportunity offered by this epoch-making transformation to occupy a niche in the electoral market that is currently not covered by any credible offer. Everywhere I turn my head, I hear that there is a leadership vacuum. Elections are won by minorities, while the majority of voters stay at home. 

It is up to this responsible and innovative leadership to design an operating system that works for the future. It’s high time someone should stand up!

Selfless leadership requires courage. Are politicians fit for the task?

The global environmental challenge of climate change and ecosystems requires policies to both reduce the carbon intensity of the economy and enhance natural carbon sinks. Therefore, the triple crisis of nature, climate and biodiversity must be tackled together. The science is clear: ignoring one will lead to an inability to address the others.  

If ever there was a time to take a stand, that time has come. If short-term electoral deadlines and party selfishness prevail over political responsibility, humanity will have little chance to succeed.

Faced with the existential threat of climate change and the disruption of planetary ecosystems, this is not the time for compromise, postponement, or half-truths. It is the time for clear choices. "Let your talk be: 'Yes, yes', 'No, no'. All else is guilty sloth.

Fortunately, responsible companies are taking a stand.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Arvea Marieni is the Director of the Regenerative Society Foundation, the leading alliance for a regenerative economy. She is also member of the board and Partner at Brainscapital Benefit Company and a Principal Consultant at GcM Consulting Srl. Previously, she was Head of the Energy Transition Programme at the Strasbourg Policy Centre.

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