Environment & Biodiversity

Farmers are protesting the EU Nature Restoration Law

  • The ratification of a nature restoration law by the EU Parliament has prompted outrage and debate over efforts to restore threatened ecosystems.
  • The law is an important component of the European Green Deal and attempts to combat species extinction and repair degraded habitats.

Why is the Nature Restoration Law in the news?

  • The law intends to restore 30% of terrestrial, coastal, freshwater, and marine habitats that are currently in bad condition by 2030.
  • Farmers and conservative MPs are highly opposed to the measure, notably the proposals to rehabilitate drained peatlands. They contend that valuable agricultural land may be lost, resulting in economic and societal ramifications as well as potential food security issues.

Peatlands’ Importance and Environmental Impact

  • Carbon Storage in Peatlands: Peatlands, which are wetland ecosystems created over thousands of years, store more carbon than any other environment. They absorb roughly twice as much CO2 as the rest of the world’s woods combined.
  • When peatlands are drained for agriculture or other purposes, they convert from carbon sinks to substantial greenhouse gas generators, contributing to emissions.
  • More than half of Europe’s peatlands have been permanently degraded, accounting for about 7% of the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Rewetting and Paradigm Shift Proposals

  • Rewetting Peatlands: The proposed legislation calls for rewetting 50% of Europe’s former peatlands in order to restore their environmental functions and reduce climate change.
  • Agriculture Paradigm Shift: Experts call for a paradigm shift in agriculture, shifting away from farming on drained peatlands and towards paludiculture (farming on wetlands), or agriculture on rewetted peat soil. This strategy would reduce carbon emissions while also enhancing soil and water quality.

Political Difficulties and Compromises

  • Conservative groups, like the European People’s Party, oppose the conversion of agricultural land and aim to limit the extent of wetland restoration programmes.
  • Concerns and Misinformation: Critics suggest that villages could be cleared for wetland restoration, resulting in economic and social consequences. These claims, however, have been criticised as misleading and populist.

Economic and environmental advantages

  • Long-Term Economic Return: According to the European Commission, every euro invested in restoring natural resources will provide at least eight times the economic return in the long run.
  • While rewetted soil may not support traditional monocultures, it may allow for the cultivation of various crops such as lumber, grasses, and reeds for insulating materials and organic plastic substitutes. Revitalised regions could potentially be used as grazing grounds for other livestock.

@the end

  • The passage of the EU nature restoration regulation has created a controversy between environmentalists and farmers.
  • While farmers are concerned about the loss of agricultural land and the economic consequences, environmentalists argue for the restoration of threatened ecosystems and the long-term advantages of sustainable land use.
  • The law’s implementation will be critical to meeting the European Green Deal’s lofty climate and biodiversity ambitions.
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