FG is distorting EU nature restoration law

The idea that farmers en masse will be forced to rewet their land is just not true

Sir, – In the article “Fine Gael cannot accept proposed nature restoration law in current form” (News, June 1st), The Irish Times reported that “the Taoiseach raised concerns that the law would reduce the amount of land available for food production and cause food prices to rise, potentially affecting food security in the world’s poorest countries. In addition, he said it could make it harder for wind and solar farms to be built” .

Contrary to the Taoiseach’s statement, recitals 60 and 61, and articles 3(15) and 11(6) of the proposal ensure coherence with the roll-out of renewable energy, and REPowerEU, the EU’s plan for saving energy, producing clean energy, and diversifying our energy supplies. WindEurope, SolarPower Europe, and Eurelectric, the sector association which represents the common interests of the electricity at pan-European level, are all in favour of the Nature Restoration Law. WindEurope called for strong nature restoration targets in advance of the European Commission’s proposal and its press release in June 2022 in reaction to the published proposal, WindEurope praised the proposal and, rightly so, said it needs to be viewed together with the RePowerEU package.

SolarPower Europe recently published a report in partnership with BirdLife Europe on nature-positive solar, and its CEO, Walburga Hemetsberger, tweeted on May 24th that it is convinced that solar growth and biodiversity protection must go hand in hand. Eurelectric industry has publicly stated that its supports the law and that accelerated deployment of renewables is compatible with nature restoration. The renewables industry has no problem with the nature restoration law, yet somehow the Taoiseach has identified problems that the industry hasn’t.

The regulation will not reduce the amount of land available for food production. The proposal does not require any reduction in farmland, only, perhaps, in some instances, different farming practices. The regulation will not lead to higher food prices, there is absolutely no evidence of this, nor will it affect food security in the Global South. In fact, the European Commission’s impact assessment, like the 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, is clear that climate change and biodiversity loss are the biggest long-term threats to food security in the EU, and that ecosystem restoration will be fundamental in helping to reduce risks to food security. There is not a single serious scientist in the EU who would support the Taoiseach’s comments. The debate in relation to the Nature Restoration Law in Ireland has centred on rewetting targets for member states in Article 9. I am the LEFT group in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee shadow rapporteur for this legislative file. I am one of seven MEPs responsible for negotiating the European Parliament’s position. Last week, we agreed the peatland targets as part of an overall compromise package that will be put to the vote in the Environment Committee on June 15th.


The compromise agreement in relation to peatlands before the Committee vote is to stick with the wording of the Commission’s proposal, with 40 per cent instead of 30 per cent flexibility for forests on drained peatlands to contribute to the agriculturally drained peatland target. In paragraph 2 of Article 9(4) of the European Commission’s proposal, it is clearly stated that drained peat extraction sites can count towards the agricultural target. There is no cap on the amount of hectares that can be counted. We know Bord na Móna has a plan to rewet 80,000 hectares. There is a cap of 30 per cent in paragraph 3 on the amount of drained peatlands under forestry that can count towards the agricultural target, or 40 per cent in the European Parliament’s provisional compromise agreement. Coillte has a plan to rewet 30,000 hectares, all of which can be counted towards the agricultural peatland target. The Commission’s impact assessment states that Ireland’s 2050 target for rewetting agricultural peatlands is 116,000 hectares. The current European Council position would mean 83,000 hectares would need to be rewetted. Ireland could achieve the European Commission’s 2050 target of 116,000 hectares using just Bord na Móna and Coillte commitments.

Ireland should of course offer voluntary schemes to farmers to rewet their agriculturally drained peatland. Farmers should be rewarded for this. But the idea that farmers en masse will be forced to rewet their land is just not true.

We are approaching the sixth mass extinction, and yet some of our MEPs, TDs and even the Taoiseach are actively engaging in misrepresentation in relation to this crucial piece of nature legislation. – Yours, etc,


European Parliament,