BRUSSELS, July 11 (AP) Protesters and lawmakers gathered in the European Parliament on Tuesday, as the bloc faces a major vote on protecting its threatened natural environment from damaging environmental change. Putting the EU’s global climate credibility to the test.
Driven by climate activist Greta Thunberg, hundreds of demonstrators demanded that the European Union push through a bill that would strengthen the restoration of the 27-nation bloc’s natural environment ravaged by decades of industrial expansion.
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Inside the French legislature in Strasbourg, lawmakers are preparing for a brutal debate on whether to shelve the plan ahead of Wednesday’s vote. The Legislative Yuan’s environment committee was deadlocked 44-44 on the issue last month.
“We urge them not to reject it, but to vote for the strongest law possible. To alleviate the climate crisis and stop biodiversity loss, we must #RestoreNature,” Thunberg wrote on her Twitter.
The bill is an important part of the EU’s highly regarded European Green Deal, which aims to set the world’s most ambitious climate and biodiversity targets and make the EU the global reference point for all climate issues.
The plan proposed by the European Commission sets binding restoration targets for specific habitats and species, aiming to cover at least 20% of the region’s land and sea areas by 2030.
The European Commission wants natural restoration laws to be a key part of the system, as the whole deal requires maximum investment.
Others said that if the EU failed on the natural restoration law, it would show overall climate fatigue in the bloc.
The bill has long looked like a surefire winner, as it has broad support among member states and has been staunchly defended by the European Commission and its president, Ursula von der Leyen.
But von der Leyen’s own political group, the Christian Democrats European People’s Party, was unhappy with this and is now strongly opposing it, claiming it would affect food security and hurt farmers’ incomes.
As the largest group, with 177 seats in the 705-seat legislature, its opposition has been key in turning the issue into a hot political debate.
“For the EPP group, there is no acceptable outcome other than rejection of the law. We want to protect nature, but this law is poorly drafted and ill-conceived,” said Christine Schneider, MP for the European People’s Party De said.
Member states have overwhelmingly agreed to support a slightly more flexible version of the bill, and if parliament backs the plan on Wednesday, the two agencies will sit down to agree on the final layout later this year.
If parliament rejects the plan on Wednesday, it will have to be sent back to the drawing board, with no results likely before next June’s EU parliamentary elections. That would damage the EU’s credibility abroad, as it has invested heavily in its much-vaunted Green Deal.
The Green Deal includes a wide range of measures, from reducing energy consumption to slashing transport emissions to reforming the EU’s greenhouse gas trading system.
In addition to environmental protesters, hundreds of international scientists and even a large group of multinational companies have also called for the passage of the EU’s natural restoration law. (Associated Press)
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