May 25, 2024

The EU’s nature recovery law will only work if it is enacted in partnership with farmers, a group of leading scientists has said, after months of protests pushed the proposals to the brink of collapse.

In a open letterleading biodiversity researchers from around the world have said that efforts to restore nature are essential to guaranteeing food supplies – but farmers must be empowered to help make agriculture more environmentally friendly if the measures are to succeed.

The letter, signed by researchers from the University of Oxford, ETH Zurich and Wageningen University, reads: “At no stage in history has there been more pressure on farmers. They are responsible for feeding an ever-growing population. And now we want them to save us all from the global climate and biodiversity crises, at the same time as market forces make the financial situation ever more difficult.

“We desperately need land to support a resilient agricultural sector. We need our policies to empower farmers to be the heroes we need them to be. But to do this, we are also going to have to save space for nature.

The EU nature restoration actwhich has been ongoing for two years and aims to reverse the catastrophic degradation of nature in the block, appears to be on the verge of collapse after months of peasant protests across Europe against some of the proposals. Several member states withdrew support for the legislation.

The EU was a leading voice at the Cop15 biodiversity negotiations in December 2022 governments have agreed to protect 30% of the planet for nature, reuse billions of dollars in environmentally harmful subsidies and reduce pesticide use.

But the bloc has been unable to pass many of the targets into law, leading to warnings from Virginijus Sinkevičius, the European Environment Commissioner, that the EU at the biodiversity Cop16 in Colombia later this year with empty hands, undermining its reputation as a reliable international partner.

World governments have never met a single target they set for itself to protect biodiversity – a trend this decade’s agreement was meant to break.

“Policies such as the EU Recovery Act can be essential as we strive to save nature and ensure agricultural productivity Europe,” reads the open letter. “But these policies will only work if they are built together with farmers. If governments can provide the right incentives, they can empower farmers to create a world where people and nature can thrive together.”

Find more age of extinction coverage hereand follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on X for all the latest news and features

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