Clouds gather over European environmental policy – a way ahead

Thirsty for environmental finance

Just as 2023 was declared the hottest year on record, the last few weeks have seen a series of setbacks to essential environmental reforms. 

CAP reform measures are being eroded, there are calls for the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) to be delayed and diluted, massive further funding is recommended for  solid (forest) bioenergy that worsens climate change with higher emissions than fossil fuels. 

Now the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) is also faltering, and the Forest Monitoring Law (FML) is under threat from gross over-simplification.

This article proposes reforms to address the NRL and FML situations in particular.

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Nature Restoration Law (NRL) passed – lessons for the future

Nature – and the economy – triumphs over 275 Neros. For now.

At last a prize worth cheering about, as the European parliament votes 329 votes in favour, 275 against, to back the NRL.

The final step will involve Council endorsement towards the end of March, with Environment Ministers meeting on 26th. Thereafter successful implementation will depend on Member States adopting effective National Restoration Plans. 

Behind the celebrations there is much ground to cover.

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Welcome to Kriton Arsenis

We are very pleased to welcome Kriton as a trustee of Wild Europe Foundation.

Twice voted “MEP of the Year” by his colleagues in the European Parliament for achievements in forest and marine conservation during his tenure from 2009 – 2014, he has a significant track record as environmentalist and politician.

He played a key role in development of forest policy, including establishment of the EU Timber Regulation, and led the Parliament in adopting EU legislation on monitoring emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), as well as ending important derogations of EU environmental assessment legislation. Kriton has since been a member of the Greek parliament until 2023.

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Rescuing the Nature Restoration Law

NRL squeezed though the European Parliament, but fundamental reforms are needed for it to succeed

It is a stark but surprisingly little-known fact that farming and forestry interests opposing the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) represent less than 2.5% of Gross Domestic Product in the EU. 

Yet the costs of inappropriate management in worsening climate change and ecological degradation fall on the remaining 97.5% of the economy.

A letter sent by Wild Europe to each of the 51 MEPs in the Environment Committee and the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee on 10th July, just prior to the vote on the NRL, pointed out this GDP mismatch and stressed that it was in the interests of all sectors of the economy to get the Law voted through.

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European Business & Biodiversity Forum shows the need for alliance

The growing urgency of climate change and biodiversity loss necessitates rapid increase in mutual understanding between business and biodiversity. 

The European Business and Biodiversity Forum, involving some 500 enterprises on 21stJune in Paris, sought to address this issue.

Wild Europe’s presentation to the Forum stressed the important role of companies in conservation, particularly restoration, and outlined measures needed to enhance this.

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France – a leader for restoring ‘true nature’ in Europe

Non-intervention conservation – the French connection gathers momentum

With its great scale, bio-geographical variety and management expertise France is destined to be a leader in restoration of ‘true’ wild nature. Recent growth in support for non-intervention practice is making this a reality.

Coordination Evolution Libre (CEL), literally meaning coordination of free evolution, is one such entity. Founded scarcely 3 years ago by a group of distinguished naturalists, writers and scientists, it is evolving rapidly from a core of 15 organisations, linking to a network of initiatives in the field and a significant group of supportive MPs in the French Parliament. 

Summarised in the clarion call “Let’s make room for true nature”, CEL draws on Wild Europe’s definition of wilderness – areas of natural ecosystem – calling for non-intervention to be the keynote for President Macron’s vision of “protection forte” (strong protection).

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Linking UNFCC & CBD – a call for practical action

Addressing the linkage between climate and biodiversity crises is widely regarded as essential for resolving them. Yet this linkage still has to be coordinated in practice at strategic level between key organisations. 

A new policy paper with proposals for a Joint SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice) Work Plan, to which Wild Europe has contributed, should help address the situation.

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The Vjosa becomes Europe’s first Wild River National Park

The meandering Vjosa with its wilding hinterland

The Vjosa in Albania, one of Europe’s last free-flowing natural rivers, was declared a national park by the government on 22nd March.

Its tributaries and a variety of ecosystems harbouring some 1,100 species including 15 under global threat, will be included in a second phase alongside creation of a trans-boundary park with Greece where it is known as the river Aoos.

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The bigger the better… natural solutions addressing climate change

New findings accentuate value of old growth forest in addressing climate change

A UK study published in December 2022 suggests carbon volume in larger trees is likely to be much higher than previously estimated. 

This potentially has huge implications for the value of forests, old growth in particular, for mitigating climate change – and underlines a correspondingly much greater cost of their destruction.

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End Carbon Fuels – a unified approach for climate campaigners

Wood burning Drax – a renewable energy image bathed in natural greenness

Wild Europe is promoting closer coordination between networks campaigning to abolish fossil fuels and those seeking to end commercial scale forest bioenergy.

This was the focus of a webinar co-hosted with Europe Beyond Coal on 19th October, featuring 29 organisations from both networks, and agreement reached on the mutual benefit of closer links.  

There is a paradox whereby much-needed success in phasing out fossil fuels can, if these are replaced by forest biomass burning, worsen climate change.

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