Green minister warns of ‘horrible conservative scaremongering’ on EU nature law

Minister of State Ossian Smyth (Niall Carson)
Minister of State Ossian Smyth (Niall Carson)

Minister of State Ossian Smyth said he is “not happy” about the European People’s Party (EPP) decision to walk out negotiations on the EU’s nature restoration law.

The European Commission says the law is a key element of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, which calls for binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems, in particular those with the most potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters.

The proposals include targets for the restoration and rewetting of drained peatlands.

Mr Smyth, a Green Party TD for Dun Laoghaire, said he was “disappointed” with the EPP – which is the European affiliate of his coalition partner Fine Gael.

“Forget the coalition and politics, I think Irish people love nature and want to protect it.”

He said the proposal is not yet law and negotiations remained “vague” and “very broad”.

“The principle of it is that we would protect nature on a portion of European land and that we would find a way to compensate farmers and landowners for protecting nature and that it would be done on a voluntary basis.”

Speaking to RTE radio, Mr Smyth said he would continue to work with his coalition partners on the matter.

He criticised what he called “horrible conservative scaremongering” over the issue.

“I want the public to go to their public representatives and say: ‘Actually my quality of life is improved by nature and I want you to protect nature and I’m horrified by the reduction in species’.

“This isn’t about some species going extinct in Africa or Asia. This is about our country, losing our plants and animals and trees and leaving nothing for the next generation.”

He said he was sure this would be a “major topic” when his party leader Eamon Ryan meets Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar next Monday.