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Nature Restoration Law of the European Parliament

Nature Restoration Law of the European Parliament

On 12 July 2023, the European Parliament approved the law for the restoration of nature, a project aimed at restoring biodiversity and recovering seriously compromised natural areas, with 336 votes in favour, 300 against and 13 abstentions.
It was not an easy path and there was no lack of opposition from groups and parliamentarians against this indispensable and undelayable provision.
Legislative negotiations with the Council can now begin.
The Nature Restoration Law is a unique provision of its kind in the entire history of the European community. For the first time we will have a law with a function that is not only protective, as is the case for the precious Birds and Habitats directives, but proactive, whose principle is that protecting existing nature is fundamental but it is no longer enough: we need to restore the lost one. This will help stop the decline of biodiversity, tackle the climate issue as well as have a safer territory, greener and more welcoming cities, higher quality ecosystem services.
Who could be against these objectives, given the environmental and ecological degradation we have entered?
Yet despite these extraordinary benefits, the European Parliament has had to overcome an anachronistic and incorrect opposition, from a part of politics and some lobbies contrary to any real environmental agenda, which has used bogus arguments and sometimes inappropriate language to stop the law. The success of the approval is due to the determination of the European Commission and a substantial part of the political forces of the European Parliament but also to the unprecedented civic mobilization that supported the law.
The young people of the green movements (Greta Thunberg and others had demonstrated in support of the directive in Strasbourg and today the activist was present in the audience), but also 6,000 European scientists, numerous academics and over 1 million citizens had already signed an appeal for the “yes”.
Now with the final section of the law, the negotiation of the Trilogue (European Commission, European Parliament and EU Council) from which the text of the law will emerge, which the Member States will adopt and implement, a new phase will begin, full of hope for the nature of Europe and for the greater health of our societies.
Among other things, beyond the obvious or ecological sentimentality, every euro invested in restoring nature, according to studies by the European Commission, will produce a return of between 9 and 38 euros in the form of better ecosystem services, and this is only one of the examples of how this law can really change European history for the better.
In a nutshell, the law provides, with binding targets for the member states, to restore 20% of land and marine areas in order to stop the loss of biodiversity by 2030 with nature restoration measures and subsequently extend the same concept to all ecosystems that need to be restored by 2050. A goal to ensure food security, climate resilience and health and well-being for the population, fauna and flora.
Among the most important passages of the Nature Restoration Law are the desire to reduce chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030, the increase in protected areas, efforts to save pollinators, but also the idea of guaranteeing no loss of urban green spaces within 2030 and plan for a 5% increase by 2050.
But that’s not all, among other binding provisions, there is “a minimum of 10% tree cover in every city”, the re-humidification of dried up peat bogs that help us absorb carbon, various actions to increase biodiversity in agricultural land, the restoration of seabed habitats or the removal of river barriers to free 25,000 km of rivers to prevent disasters during floods. Each member state will have to develop national rehabilitation plans with precise reporting of what has been done.

Now, to use football jargon, the ball passes to the national governments which will have to legally implement the Nature Restoration Law.
Unfortunately in Italy we are faced with a varied panorama, not only from a parliamentary point of view but also due to the presence of Regions with special statutes or partial autonomy.
The concern which, as usual is lawful, is that, in the variegated Italian panorama and in the still poor awareness and therefore sensitivity to the problem, the dynamics for the transposition of EU guidelines get lost in the maze of a policy that is not very attentive and aware of severity of the problem.
Suffice it to say that in Italy, in the Senate, the Bill n. 2213, concerning “Provisions for the support of agroecology and for the protection of the agricultural, forestry and rural sector” but which is still stuck in the maze of a busy policy in completely different matters.
Things are going better in Sicily which has instead become the first European Region to adopt a law on agroecology (Regional Law 21 of 29 July 2021) concerning “Provisions on agroecology, the protection of biodiversity and Sicilian agricultural products and of technological innovation in agriculture. Rules on maritime state-owned concessions”.
Unfortunately, to date the Assessors who have succeeded, from the moment of approval to today’s date, have not managed to put a signature on the Implementation Decree which has already been ratified by the competent table of the Agriculture Department of the Sicilian Region.
If the Sicilian Region applied the aforementioned L.R. 21 of 2021 (with the approval of the decree) much of the work of the Nature Restoration Law of the European Parliament would have already been done.
Suffice it to say that if by 2030 only 10% of farms made the commitment to convert to an agroecological system, we would have surprising results.
We recall here that, according to the latest ISTAT data, the Sicilian UAA is 1,387,521 Ha. By applying only the obligations referred to in letter a) of paragraph 3 of the L.R. 21/2021 we will have the following data:
– 1,387,521 x 10% (participating companies) x 10% (surface to be planted) = 13,875.21 Ha of new tree surfaces. Placing a sixth lump sum of 5 square meters we will have: 13,875.21 x 10,000 m2/25 = 138,752,100/25 = 5,550,084 of new trees (with native species).
In this regard, it should be noted that an adult tree stores around 167 kg of CO2 per year, or 1 ton of CO2 per year for 6 adult trees. This means that more than 33 trees would have to be planted each year to offset the CO2 emissions of a single citizen.
Therefore, if only 10% of companies switched to agroecology, we would offset the emissions of around 166,000 Sicilian citizens.
If agroecology were applied by all companies, we would have 55,000,000 new trees, offsetting the emissions of over 1,600,000 inhabitants of Sicily. Incredible data.
Furthermore, again according to paragraph 3 of the L.R. 21/2021, which provides for a minimum area of 5% on farms for pollinating plant species, if only 10% of the companies moved towards agroecology we would have just under 7,000 hectares of flora useful for pollinators; an area equal to the average size of a Sicilian municipality.
Furthermore, the presence of native species and breeds would restore heavily compromised and altered agricultural habitats.
In short, the mere approval of a decree, with all the advantages it would give to the ecological transition of Sicilian farms, would allow, in addition to speeding up the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030 strategies, also the application of the Nature Restoration Law of the European Parliament.
At this point, as a well-known presenter said, the question arises spontaneously: will our Governments be able to get the so-called spider out of the hole (following the application of the various rules) or should we think that the time has come when the national and Sicilians (in this case) form a common front, as happened in Strasbourg, to push this inert political locomotive?
I lean towards the second hypothesis, we must be citizens with a new political awareness, leaving behind the grievances and pushing the train of politics towards the finish line. It is the only engine that can push it.

Guido Bissanti

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