Dutch MPs are pressing nitrogen minister Christianne van der Wal to block European plans to protect biodiversity by imposing planning limits on member states.
European ministers are due to meet next week to discuss the proposed Nature Restoration Law, which aims to restore oceans, forests and grasslands that have been damaged by industrial pollution. Member states will be able to claim €100 billion to implement the plans.
MEPs in the European People’s Party group (EPP), which includes the Dutch Christian Democrats (CDA), have led a campaign against the law, arguing it is poorly framed and risks driving up food prices by raising production costs.
They are targeting a vote in the environment committee on Thursday that could force the European Commission to go back to the drawing board. The outcome hinges on the votes of the liberal Renew Europe group, which includes the Dutch parties VVD and D66.
The EPP’s vice chair, Esther de Lange of the CDA, has called on the commission to “take this proposal back and put it out in a more realistic fashion”.
In the Dutch parliament, MPs from the right-wing liberal VVD party have backed a motion by the farmers’ party BBB calling on Van der Wal not to endorse the directive until the row has been settled.
The agriculture sector fears that the law will be another regulatory obstacle for farmers, some of whom are having to downsize or sell their businesses so that the government can meet its targets on reducing nitrogen compound emissions.
French president Emmanuel Macron recently called for a “regulatory pause” by Brussels on the environment while the EU fixes its energy supply issues following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Belgian prime minister Alexander Croo recently urged the European Commission not to “overturn the apple cart”. His Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, has refrained from taking a stand, delegating responsibility for the issue to Van der Wal.
The Commission argues that nature restoration is urgently needed to slow the destructive effects of climate change, such as severe droughts and intense rainfall, leading to flooding and waterlogged crops.
It would compel EU countries to take measures to protect 20% of natural areas by 2030, rising to 90% by 2050, cut the use of pesticides, build more green spaces in cities and promote biodiversity on farmland.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) says 81% of the EU’s protected habitats are in poor condition.
Dutch EU commissioner Frans Timmermans, who has spearheaded the drive for the nature restoration law, accused its opponents of exploiting the war in Ukraine as an “excuse to pull the brakes”.
Supporters of the law have accused the EPP of cosying up to the far right ahead of next year’s European elections.
“The unholy coalition of EPP, Renew and far right-wing populists and extremists cannot be allowed to further undermine the European Green Deal,” German Green MEP Jutta Paulus said last month.