BRUSSELS — The EU’s flagship biodiversity law must pass, the United Nations’ top environment official warned, condemning what she called “misinformation” spread about the legislation by some political parties. 

A growing backlash is jeopardizing the bloc’s Nature Restoration Law, which aims to return the Continent’s degraded natural areas to a healthy state. 

EU environment ministers narrowly agreed on a common position on the law on Tuesday. The bill is now heading for a decisive vote in the European Parliament’s environment committee on June 27 after conservative groups failed in their push to kill the legislation in a first round of voting last week.

“If it were to fail, it would be a failure for the European people, for the nations of Europe and for the next European generations,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), told POLITICO during a visit to Brussels on Tuesday. 

“It is absolutely critical that we understand that this is not a left-or-right issue … it is about something much larger than that,” she said.

The Nature Restoration Law is a key element of the EU’s Green Deal, seeking to halt biodiversity loss and make ecosystems more resilient — which in turn should help the bloc achieve its climate targets, as they partially rely on storing CO2 in natural carbon sinks. 

It also seeks to enshrine in law the commitments the EU made at last year’s COP15 biodiversity talks to restore 30 percent of the world’s degraded nature by 2030. 

“The EU and EU countries were at the forefront” at COP15, Andersen said. “Seeing that now being questioned, in the context of the Nature Restoration Law, is frankly quite unhelpful.” 

The conservative European People’s Party (EPP) has led the backlash against the law, arguing that it places too high a burden on European farmers and could even lead to “global famine.” 

While declining to name any particular political groups, Andersen said that “some of this information — which is clearly misinformation — is very unhelpful, and frankly, very unfair.” 

She added: “It saddens me to see that political parties that have always stood for sustainability, for farming, for productivity of the land, for integrity of our natural resources, could see that this [law] would somehow be problematic.” 

The EPP, which declined to comment on Andersen’s remarks, has also been criticized by the wind industry for claiming that the nature bill would endanger the EU’s renewable energy targets. 

Turning nature restoration into some type of culture war between left and right is “an absurd notion,” Andersen continued. “Nature is about life … I think every child understands that. And, frankly, I think voters get that.” 

She also rejected the “false narrative” that farming and biodiversity protection are at odds with each other. 

The EPP and its allies have argued that, given rising costs and the war in Ukraine, imposing any restrictions on agriculture would jeopardize food security and farms’ survival. 

Andersen, a Danish economist who said she comes from a farming family, said it was the job of policymakers to “allay fears” — and design “smart agricultural policies” to enable farmers to make a living using sustainable methods. 

The EPP, as well as politicians like Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, have also called for pausing regulatory efforts on biodiversity and nature protection more broadly as industry faces a global economic slowdown. 

The UNEP boss believes that’s unwise. 

“Nature doesn’t wait,” Andersen said. “It’s not going to sit and wait while we deal with this other crisis. The world has to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time … and that calls for leadership.” 

Louise Guillot contributed reporting.

Zia Weise

?  Read More  Sustainability & LEED Agriculture, Biodiversity, Climate diplomacy, Environment, Food security, Nature restoration, Sustainability, Agriculture and Food, Energy and Climate ?Farming and biodiversity efforts need not be at odds, Inger Andersen says.