null MTK's position on the EU legislation on nature restoration

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MTK's position on the EU legislation on nature restoration

13.6.2022

Fundamental changes to the Commission's plans are needed before the legislative proposal can be published. The Finnish government must urgently influence the Commission. The Finnish government must also strive to find like-minded partners in other Member States to improve the influencing.

This paper has been discussed and approved by MTK's Board of Directors on May 17, 2022 and by MTK's Forestry Board on May 18, 2022

ALLOCATION AND PRIORITISING + EFFICIENCY AND COST-EFFECTIVENESS:

  • Nature restoration is one way to safeguard biodiversity, but action must be efficient and cost-effective -> special attention must be paid to prioritization and allocation.
  • There is also a need for nature restoration in protected areas, and action there should be prioritized. This would ensure that the benefits of nature restoration are lasting, and that restoration will not put pressure on other land uses.
  • In addition to the areas already protected, any restoration legislation at EU level should cover no more than areas already under the EU nature protection legislation (Annex I of the Habitats Directive).
  • Outside protected areas, it is not a question of restoring towards the natural state, but of combining the protection of biodiversity with the use of the area for human needs (a fundamental issue in sustainable agriculture and forestry, e.g. the natural management of commercial forests).
  • Peatland in sustainable agricultural and forestry use should not be classified as of area needing restoration, even if its original natural state has often changed. Sustainable food, feed and wood production must continue to be possible on high-yielding thin-layer peatlands and in the forests of drained peatlands.
  • If restoration obligations were to be imposed on areas used for agriculture and forestry, the allocation and setting of targets should take into account at least the following factors:
    • Restoration should be targeted at low-yield fields, many of which are already outside active food production and may have been nature conservation fields for a long time, with their flora and biota already evolving towards natural habitat.
    • For forests, restoration should be targeted at areas where good wood production capacity has not been achieved, despite of drainage

NATIONAL DECISION-MAKING:

  • According to the principle of subsidiarity, decisions should be made as close as possible to the citizen. This is emphasized in biodiversity issues, where landowners' rights are central.
  • The situations in the Member States are different, which is why the needs for restoration should be defined nationally and not at EU level (in Finland: Needs based on data from e.g.threatened species’ assessments and directive reporting).
  • Successful restoration requires planning, so the idea of drawing up national restoration plans is justified in itself (in Finland: the Helmi Program).
  • The process of national restoration plans, which may be defined by law, must be such that the decision on the content of the plan (what, where, when and how to restore) actually rests with the Member State and not with the Commission.
  • The use of national know-how and the right means for creating win-win situations (e.g. the promotion of natural drainage is a suitable method for taking nature into account in both fields and forests and can be well combined with production).

DIRECTIVE, NOT REGULATION + ROLE OF THE COMMISSION IN LEGISLATIVE WORK:

  • EU nature protection legislation is based on directives; in the event of new EU regulation, this line should be continued in order to maintain national room for maneuver to find appropriate solutions.
  • The Directive is better suited to the context of restoration than the Regulation, as each Member State can choose the means of implementing the Directive when applying it (see previous paragraph on national decision-making power)
  • The use of the regulation has been justified by speed, but speed does not take into account the long-time span of restoration and is a risk for systematical planning.
  • The Commission should not be empowered to adopt delegated acts, e.g. to determine in which areas restoration should take place (see previous paragraph on national decision-making power).

PROTECTION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS AND ACCEPTABILITY, OPTIONALITY:

  • National decisions on the allocation of measures and the methods of carrying out restoration are a precondition for ensuring the protection of property rights and the broad acceptability of restoration activities (in Finland: the voluntary Helmi program)
  • Achieving the desired results depends on the motivation of landowners, so guidance cannot be done from top to bottom.

BALANCED OVERALL PICTURE AND REALISTIC LEVEL OF AMBITION:

  • Economic, social and environmental sustainability.
  • The promotion of biodiversity - and thus restoration activities - must be balanced against other environmental objectives (e.g. climate) and other societal objectives (e.g. food security, energy availability);
  • There are a large number of EU processes affecting forests in particular (Forest Strategy based on the Green Deal, Biodiversity strategy, climate and energy issues, the taxonomy of sustainable financing, the Deforestation Regulation, etc.) and their combined effects are inconceivable.
  • Balance requires realistic targets based on needs identified on the basis of reliable baseline data. It is problematic if an unknown state is considered a non-good state. There is a clear need to improve the level of knowledge in order to make the assessment of the situation and the identification of needs more reliable.
  • In accordance with the principle of proportionality, the effects of the measures must not exceed what is necessary to achieve the objective pursued. With regard to restoration legislation, it is not known to what extent the measures are proportionate to the needs at different levels.

FAIR BURDEN SHARING:

  • The burden-sharing must be fair between Member States, between “sectors” (e.g. agriculture vs. forestry vs. others and natural environments vs. urban environments) and between groups of people (landowners vs. others).
  • The backgrounds of the initial situations in the Member States (e.g. the situation in Finland after the second world war) and the current situation (e.g. profitable forests have been created by drainage) must be taken into account.
  • The time span between the benefits and harms can be significant.
  • Beneficiaries and disadvantaged groups are, at least in part, different groups of people.

IMPLEMENTATION REQUIRES FUNDING

  • If the EU sets targets, how will the EU fund implementation?
  • The Commission's idea of a significant role for the CAP as a source of funding is not working, as CAP funding is intended to support active food and raw material production.
  • A separate financial instrument may be needed to meet the EU's biodiversity targets.

CLARITY AND PREDICTABILITY OF REGULATION:

  • A condition for being able to assess the effects.
  • Definitions (e.g. good status and favorable reference area) are difficult to interpret in practice
    • To which year is it compared, what is enough?
    • How to address the mutual prioritization of different dimensions of good status and different habitats and species?
    • Is there a consensus, for example, on the number of habitats that are sufficient for a favorable conservation status of a particular species (cf. the debate on the number of wolves)?

IMPACT ASSESSMENTS:

  • The impact of all proposals must be thoroughly assessed on the basis of reliable information, taking into account both indirect and direct effects.
  • The Commission must explain in an open and transparent manner the information,assumptions and calculations on which the assessments are based on, and the effects and benefits taken into account.

 

Further information:

Anna-Rosa Asikainen, Lawyer, MTK
anna-rosa.asikainen@mtk.fi
+358 40 920 9858