EU will not rewrite contested nature law, bloc's green chief says

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission will not redraft a landmark law to restore damaged environments, the bloc's green policy chief said on Monday, in the face of calls from some lawmakers to throw out the proposal.

Brussels is attempting to salvage two proposed environmental laws, the future of which is in doubt after the biggest lawmaker group in the European Parliament called for them to be rejected.

One law would require countries to introduce measures to restore nature in 20% of their land and sea. The second, designed to cut pollution and halt the collapse of Europe's bee and butterfly populations, would halve the EU's chemical pesticide use by 2030.

"We will not come up with another proposal, time simply isn't there," Frans Timmermans said of the nature restoration law at a European Parliament committee meeting.

Timmermans said by improving the health of nature, the proposals would make Europe's farms more resilient to worsening climate change impacts like floods and drought, improve the land's ability to absorb water and avoid soil erosion.

Rejecting them, he said, would endanger the EU's overall green agenda to cut greenhouse gas emissions and clean up pollution.

"As an interconnected package of solutions, if one piece falls, the other pieces fall," he said.

Lawmakers from the European People's Party, which has led the campaign to reject the proposal, said their concerns remained - including that the law would kill off renewable energy projects and other economic projects in areas where nature restoration measures are introduced.

"Like it or not, if you want renewable energy, you need to dig. And in a number of member states, current nature legislation already makes that virtually impossible," EPP lawmaker Esther de Lange said.

Timmermans said the Commission was ready to address parts of the law that have caused concern, for example by clarifying that measures to restore nature should not obstruct countries' plans to build wind farms.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Conor Humphries)