Nature triumphs in EU Parliament with restoration and crime laws adopted

Outside the European Commission, sun shining on tinted glass windows reflecting European flag.

Nature triumphs in EU Parliament with restoration and crime laws adopted

It’s been a big day in court for the environment with two ground-breaking laws now adopted by the European Parliament that will act to restore the EU’s land and sea habitats while setting new rules and sanctions for those that commit crimes against it.

A new list of environmental crimes has now been drawn up and adopted by the EU that will act not only to punish illegal activities perpetrated against the environment but act as a preventative measure for businesses acting in irresponsible ways.

The extended list of crimes against the environment include illegal timber trade and the depletion of water resources with penalties including fines for companies of up to 5% of their worldwide turnover and in more severe cases, where the illegal activity has been linked to human deaths, imprisonment for up to ten years.

Keeping companies and individuals accountable

In all cases, offenders would be required to reinstate the damaged environment and compensate for it. They might also face fines. For companies, these fines will reach 3 to 5% of their yearly worldwide turnover or alternatively between €24 million and €40 million, depending on the nature of the crime.

Member states will also be able to decide whether to prosecute criminal offences that did not take place on their territory. These member states will also organise specialised training for police, judges and prosecutors, prepare national strategies and organise awareness-raising campaigns to fight environmental crime.

“Environmental crime is in the top five most profitable crimes in Europe and all over the world,” said European Parliament rapporteur, Antonius Manders in a press briefing. “We have spent the annual GDP or Portugal per year across Europe to clean the pollution and battle the consequences of them.”

The new laws around Environmental Crimes will be adopted and implemented by EU member states over the course of the next two years. 

“Our aim is to hold company ceo accountable in the criminal courts and through this dynamic approach we have introduced prevention methods and duty of care. It is about time we fought cross-border crimes at the EU level with harmonised and dissuasive sanctions to prevent new environmental crimes. Under this agreement, polluters will pay.”

The list of environmental crimes will be reviewed every two years and updated to ensure it remains modern and relevant to the ways in which businesses operate as legislative changes sweep across the European and international markets.

“What is more, this is a step in the right direction that any person in a leading position at a company responsible for polluting can be held liable as well as the business itself. With the introduction of a duty of care, there is nowhere else to hide behind permits or legislative loopholes,” added Antonius.

MEPs adopt new nature restoration laws

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has also adopted new laws to restore 20% of the EU’s land and sea habitats by 2030 alongside all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. The targets aim to restore degraded ecosystems in all member states and help achieve the EU’s climate and biodiversity objectives as well as enhance food security.

To reach the overall EU targets, member states must now act to restore at least 30% of habitats covered by the new law (including forests, grasslands and wetlands, as well as rivers, lakes, and coral beds) from a ‘poor’ to a ‘good’ condition by 2030. 

This will increase to 60% by 2040 and to 90% by 2050. Members states are required to adopt national restoration plans detailing how they intend to achieve these targets.

As restoring drained peatlands in one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions in the agricultural sector, EU countries must restore at least 30% of drained peatlands by 2030, 40% by 2040, and 50% by 2050. At the request of Parliament, there is an emergency brake meaning targets for agricultural ecosystems can be suspended under ‘exceptional circumstances’ if they reduce the land needed for sufficient food production for EU consumption.

Rapporteur, Cesar Luena, said: “Today is an important day for Europe, as we move from protecting and conserving nature to restoring it. The new law will also help us fulfil many of our international environmental commitments.

“The regulation will restore degraded ecosystems while respecting the agricualtural secotr by giving flexibility to members states. I would like to thank scientists for providing the scientific evidence and fighting climate denial and young people for reminding us that there is no planet B, nor plan B.”

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