Centre-right EPP and liberal Renew groups join far right groups in disastrous anti-nature, anti-Green Deal position

Brussels – Today (24 May), the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) has entirely rejected the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) – the first EU law to set legally-binding targets to restore nature and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tackle the biodiversity and climate crises. This directly threatens the European Green Deal’s objectives of setting the EU on a path to a green and just transition.

Blue NGOs are now urging Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in the lead committee on this file – the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) – to listen to citizens and scientists, and uphold the European Commission’s proposal for the NRL in their vote on 15 June. The vote marks a legacy moment for MEPs, who have the opportunity to adopt legally-binding rules to restore damaged marine ecosystems, reverse biodiversity loss, and secure the long-term prosperity of coastal communities including fishers and tourism.

At the last European elections, climate and the environment were listed as top priorities for voters. Support for the environment remains high as we approach next year’s elections, with citizens and businesses calling for an ambitious NRL. However, members of conservative and liberal groups in the European Parliament, including the European People’s Party (EPP), the European Conservative and Reformists (ECR), and Renew Europe, along with the far right, have voted against restoring the ocean, undermining previous commitments they have made to tackle biodiversity loss. Today’s result reveals a blatant denial by MEPs from these groups of the climate and biodiversity crises, and complete disregard for the wishes of citizens across Europe.

Today’s political shortsightedness puts the future of European fisheries and the health of our marine environment in real danger, with dire consequences for millions of people living and working in Europe. Investing in restoration is our best insurance for resilient food systems and integral to EU efforts to mitigate climate change. Businesses increasingly agree that restoring nature is crucial for their future survival.

Anouk Puymartin, Policy Manager at BirdLife Europe, said: “With this vote, conservative, liberal, and far-right political forces in the European Parliament are uniting to take a clear stand not only against nature, but also against people and the future of coastal communities including fishers. By denying all scientific evidence and turning their backs on the last chance to bring nature back to Europe and strengthen our resilience to the climate and biodiversity crises, they are once again favouring the economic interests of a few fishing industries over the future of all.”

Swann Bommier, Advocacy Officer at BLOOM, said: “By rejecting the Nature Restoration Law, the far-right, conservative and liberal groups testified to their sheer denial of the climate emergency and biodiversity collapse we are confronted with. It is madness to witness MEPs put the future of humanity and of the biosphere at risk to accommodate the greed of a handful of industrial lobbyists determined to make a profit on the back of the ocean until there is nothing left to protect. It is now up to the ENVI Committee to rise to the occasion and show it can act responsibly to protect our ocean, coastal fishers, our climate, and our environment.”

John Condon, Senior Marine Conservation Lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “In the face of the biodiversity and climate crises, the vote today is a slap in the face to citizens, coastal communities and businesses. Restoring the ocean isn’t just ‘nice to have’, but fundamental for creating a healthy and stable environment in which we can all live and thrive. Thankfully, the Fisheries Committee does not represent the views of all EU citizens. It will be up to the Environment Committee to back the Nature Restoration Law and restore peoples’ faith in their future.”

Vera Coelho, Deputy Vice President of Oceana in Europe, said: “Despite attempts by progressive MEPs to defend the ocean ambition of the NRL, the conservative, liberal and far right forces latched onto scaremongering to bring down the proposal, seemingly in favour of the destruction of nature and ocean biodiversity and in denial of any environmental crises. The stakes are high for the Environment Committee to reverse this and save our ocean and our future.”

Tatiana Nuño, Senior Marine Policy Advisor at Seas at Risk, said: “By voting against the restoration of the ocean, conservatives and liberals in the European Parliament have sided with the far right to prop up the destructive industrial fishing lobby. The science is unequivocal – dying fish populations mean dying coastal communities, including fishers. The short-term financial gain of huge industrial fishers must not come at the price of the survival of the ocean and the health and prosperity of future generations. This is why we urge the European Parliament’s Environment committee to vote on the right side of history, which is a vote to restore nature.”

Dr Antonia Leroy, Head of Ocean Policy at the WWF European Policy Office, said: “Today’s outcome reflects the false stance that nature restoration threatens our food security and puts Europe’s carbon-neutral future at risk while, in reality, it is the lack of thriving nature and our ocean’s degraded health that cause increased resource scarcity and threaten the EU’s goals for climate change mitigation. It’s now up to the Environment Committee and all MEPs in plenary to put the European Parliament on the right course for an ambitious and strong Nature Restoration Law.”

For blue NGOs, the outcome of today’s vote confirms the need to modernise PECH into a broader Ocean Committee in the European Parliament. This will serve to integrate all relevant sectoral ocean policies beyond fisheries, such as tourism, transport and the protection of the marine environment, while giving more space to the voices of citizens and not only industry to be heard.

Next steps

ENVI – under the lead of Cesar Luena (Socialists & Democrats, Spain) – will vote on the NRL on 15 June, giving the proposed NRL a second chance to swim instead of sinking.

The European Parliament plenary vote is scheduled for July or September. The report adopted in plenary will reflect the European Parliament’s agreed position during the subsequent trilogue negotiations with the European Commission and Council (representing Member States) to finalise the EU Nature Restoration Law.