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The Fenor Bog, Waterford. Alamy Stock Photo
rewetting bogs

Some aspects of proposed Nature Restoration Law 'go too far' says Taoiseach

Leo Varadkar says some proposals in the new law do not fully recognise land use in Ireland.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said there are aspects of the proposed Nature Restoration Law (NRL) that “go too far”. 

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, he said: 

“I share concerns people have across rural and urban Ireland about some aspects of it going too far and not fully recognising how we use land in Ireland in particular.”

In December, countries from around the world came to a landmark agreement on nature at the COP15 for biodiversity, promising to protect 30% of the planet and 30% of degraded ecosystems by 2030.

The European Union came to the negotiation table in Montreal with an important piece of proposed legislation in its back pocket: a Nature Restoration Law that would be the first law of its kind to enshrine targets across the bloc for restoring ecosystems, habitats and species on land and at sea.

The law is concerned with all types of ecosystems – grasslands and forests, rivers and lakes, peatlands and agricultural land, and towns and cities too.

It would, for the first time, set legally-binding restoration targets for ecosystems that must cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea area by 2030 and all ecosystems that are in need of restoration by 2050.

Much of the public attention given to the law so far has centred around its aims for restoring peatlands, which have been seriously degraded – only 10% of Europe’s peatlands are currently considered to be in good condition.

Opposition to new law

Last week, The Journal reported that Green MEPs are concerned over the “unprecedented opposition” against the European law.

It now appears there could be opposition within Government with the proposals set to cause conflict between the coalition parties. 

When asked by Rural Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae what the Government will do to protect rural people and farmland, Varadkar said in the Dáil today the nature restoration law is only a proposed European law.

“I want to make it very clear that it is a proposal at this stage. We all understand the need to protect nature and restore biodiversity loss to allow nature to regrow but there are aspects of it that go too far in my view, particularly if it comes to taking agricultural land out of use for food production and, indeed, in urban areas, there are issues where it might become harder, for example, to turn a grass pitch into an all-weather pitch.”

‘Long way to go’

Varadkar said there is “a long way to go before this regulation is right”.

Negotiations are still under way, he added, before encouraging people to engage in the Dáil debate on the issue next week.

When asked about the possibility of a rift between the coalition parties over the proposed new law, a Green Party government spokesperson told TheJournal this evening:

“We are currently experiencing a dramatic decline in biodiversity, runaway climate change and widespread pollution of waters and deteriorating air quality.

“A major international study showed today that half the species in the world are undergoing declines in their population sizes. This is also true for Ireland where there are serious concerns for the continued survival of many native species that were once common, including the salmon, puffin and curlew.

“We don’t believe this should be a divisive issue. We’ve had a common approach in the European negotiations. Ministers Ryan, McConalogue and Noonan have worked together in terms of the Irish Government approach.

“No-one will be forced to participate in any schemes but instead, farmers who wish to do so will be paid to play their part in restoring our natural world.”

With reporting by Lauren Boland 

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