• D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG
rotating globe
  • D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
Semafor Logo
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG


Updated Jun 17, 2024, 1:37pm EDT
net zeroEurope
icon

Semafor Signals

Landmark EU nature law threatens Austrian government

Insights from Die Presse, Politico, and Euractiv

Arrow Down
Leonore Gewessler. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
PostEmailWhatsapp
Title icon

The News

European climate ministers on Monday gave the final approval for a landmark European Union nature restoration bill, meaning member states are now obligated to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea by the end of the decade.

The bill — considered one of the pivotal components of the EU’s so-called green deal — faced huge opposition from farmers and conservatives, and only barely managed to get the required approval of two-thirds of member states after Austria’s Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler broke from her conservative government and voted in favor of the legislation.

AD
icon

SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Austrian government at risk of collapsing over minister’s vote

Source icon
Sources:  
Die Presse, Consultant Andy Scollick, AFP

Despite opposition from the Austrian People’s Party — which heads that country’s governing coalition — the law remained incredibly popular with the Austrian public: more than 80% of the country’s voters approved of the initiative, according to Austrian newspaper Die Presse. Gewessler, a member of the Green Party, cited that poll in defending her vote. But her defiance “could well bring down the Austrian coalition government,” wrote consultant Andy Scollick. The People’s Party on Monday filed criminal charges against Gewessler for abuse of office, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years if convicted.

European conservatives rallied against already watered-down bill

Source icon
Sources:  
The Guardian, Politico

The center-right European People’s Party, still the largest group in the European Parliament after this month’s election, was responsible for watering down the final bill and voted against it this year, according to the Guardian. Green lawmakers accused the EPP of backtracking on the legislation to score political points among farmers who this year staged protests against environmental proposals. Unlike other parts of the EU’s green deal — such as boosting green technology in the region — ​​nature restoration is still considered “a cost for the economy,” said one Center for European Policy Studies fellow.

Restoration is economically beneficial — just not immediate

Source icon
Source:  
Euractiv

While European farmers are worried that the new restoration laws could be costly, the long-term economic benefits of restoration could help them in the long-run, two members of the Wildlife Conservation Society wrote for Euractiv. Currently, up to 80% of EU habitats are in poor condition and up to 70% of the bloc’s soil is unhealthy, costing farmers more than $1 billion per year in agricultural productivity, the two wrote. Restoring nature can improve farming conditions, and every dollar spent on restoration ultimately has a net return of between $9 to $41 as crop production increases from things like better pollination, they argued.

Semafor Logo
AD