Why European construction companies have welcomed concessions to world-first ‘Nature Restoration Law’

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European construction companies have welcomed concessions made by European Union (EU) legislators as they develop a ‘Nature Restoration Law’.

The law, thought to be a world first, will require EU member states to draw up plans to spell out their approach to restoring nature on their territory.

Under the planned legislation, the EU has a target for nature restoration measures to jointly cover 20% of land and 20% of sea areas not currently in good condition by 2030, rising to 60% by 2040 and at least 90% by 2050.

The proposed Regulation also includes a ‘non-deterioration principle’, which means that member states have to commit to preventing any significant deterioration of land already in good condition, or not in good condition but not yet subject to restoration measures.

But there was concern from the construction industry that the new law could clash with the need for more housing, as well as throwing up potential barriers to building new infrastructure and buildings.

In a position paper published in February last year, the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) said that while the EU was right in making the protection of nature a cornerstone of the European Green Deal, a de facto “deterioration ban” for certain habitat types and the restoration of urban ecosystems “could…have devastating effects on the development of these areas, especially in those densely populated”.

It called for the Nature Restoration Law to be “compatible with other urgent societal needs” and grant more flexibility and exemptions to member states.

And it warned, “FIEC fears that the Nature Restoration Law could significantly complicate the construction of new, much-needed environmentally friendly infrastructure, including infrastructure that is needed to produce fossil-free and decarbonized energy.”

Building such infrastructure plays an important role in the implementation of flagship elements of the European Green Deal and the EU’s plan to reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels, as well as building climate resilient cities, towns and suburbs, it added.

Concessions won

Now it has emerged that EU legislators have listened to the greater part of FIEC’s requests and recommendations, having reached a provisional agreement on the law.

To avoid unintended consequences of the restoration measures, the National Restoration Law will ask member states to consider the “foreseeable socio-economic impacts” in their implementation.

Plants for the production of energy from renewables will also have to be seen as being of “overriding public interest”.

The diversity of different regions of the EU, including their population density, also has to be taken into account.

Stephanos Pierides, chairman of FIEC’s sub-commission on environmental affairs, said, “The Nature Restoration Law provides for a wide range of exemptions that allow ambitious restoration goals to be reconciled with economic activity and business interests.

“In addition, local conditions vary considerably from one region or member state to another. Belgium and the Netherlands are more densely populated than Sweden, Spain or Romania. Paris, Rome or Prague have different starting points for urban green spaces than Copenhagen or Berlin.

“This is why the agreement is a good agreement. Member states must also consider plants for the production of energy from renewable sources to be of ‘overriding public interest’. This is excellent news for construction companies, which will be able to play their ‘enabling role’ in the implementation of the Green Deal.”

The agreement will now go back to the European Parliament where it faces a vote, and then to the European Council. Both the Parliament and Council have to approve the text of the law, prior to eventual publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. The law would then come into force 20 days after publication.

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Andy Brown Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786224 E-mail: [email protected]
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