European Environment Commissioner Virginius Sinkevicus fears that the debate on nature and the environment in the EU agricultural policy will end up in a completely different waters in the coming years.
He sees more and more hardened positions emerging and points to the recent rise of populist, anti-European parties that oppose climate and environmental measures.
Sinkevicius points out that the Green Deal came about in mid-2019 under very different circumstances, and that the situation is very different now: not only in politics, but also among the public.
“We have a stable majority in the EU that supports the Green Deal,” he said, referring to the European Parliament's current support for the green agenda in general. “But then we get to more difficult issues, which I think will inevitably be influenced by the political debate,” he recently told Reuters news agency.
After the Paris Climate Agreement (2015), after the increasing protests of young people in all EU countries led by the Norwegian Greta Thunberg (2018), pro-environmental parties made significant gains in the European elections almost everywhere.
“Things are definitely different now than in 2019, when we started with maximum support and political willingness to act between almost all political parties,” said European Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius recently.
Now, barely five years later, some EU member states oppose car exhaust regulations and are seeking to relax tighter controls on pollution in livestock and agriculture. A proposal to improve the insulation of homes and government buildings (to save gas and energy) has met opposition from countries concerned about costs.
The chairman of the ENVI environmental committee of the European Parliament, the French liberal Pascal Canfin, has also noted increasing polarisation, as recently as the nature restoration law (NRL). In the coming month, efforts will be made to get the 27 Environment Ministers and the rapporteurs of the Environment Committee on the same page as soon as possible, so that the considerably weakened Nature Restoration Act can be finally adopted before the June 2024 elections.
Canfin believes – in retrospect – that the European Commissioners should have presented all their nature and climate plans in one proposal to Parliament. Now they had to agree to parts of the package, and wait for the rest.
'If the halving of chemical use, nature restoration law, soil and land rights, new breeding techniques and so on had been presented together, each party would have benefited and the whole process would have been much simpler. That would have prevented polarization in this form'.
According to Canfin, 'his' nature restoration law has therefore been stripped down unnecessarily by the right-wing majority of the European Parliament.