Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher has announced his opposition to the EU Nature Restoration Law in its current form. Kelleher stated that he cannot support any version of the law that would require mandatory rewetting targets for member states. He was responding to details of the compromises being negotiated by various political groups in the European Parliament. The Ireland South MEP claimed that the measures currently on the table in parliament are even more detrimental to the farming community in Ireland than the original European Commission proposal. Kelleher added that he does not see any way back in terms of the parliament’s position.
Kelleher explained that the parliament’s negotiator is proposing that 30% of previously drained agricultural land will be restored, with at least 50% of that to be rewetted by 2030. By 2050, they want 50% of previously drained agricultural land restored, including 66% of that rewetted. This, according to Kelleher, would have a devastating impact on Irish agriculture. Thousands of farmers have reclaimed land from peatlands for use as farmland over the last 60 years. If this land were rewetted, it would imperil their farms and livelihoods, and further drive up the cost of land in the country. Kelleher argued that the drafters of the proposal do not understand the unique circumstances of Irish land usage.
Apart from the agricultural impact, Kelleher also raised concerns over how the law would affect Ireland’s ability to build homes and develop the economy. He called for greater flexibility for national governments and local authorities in terms of green spaces and housing. Kelleher stated that Ireland is in a very difficult position concerning home construction and cannot have a situation where nature restoration targets could inhibit the building of homes for citizens.
Kelleher urged the European Commission to withdraw the proposed law and start from scratch. He questioned why no detailed impact assessment has taken place on how implementation of this proposal would affect agriculture, urban planning, energy production, and other crucial issues. Kelleher added that he cannot understand how the commission could entertain such a proposal.