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Restoration of nature ‘crucial', says commissioner amid concerns from farmers

Mairead McGuinness said it is not the case that farmers will have to ‘hand over' 20% of their land to nature (PA)
Cillian Sherlock, PA

Farmers are fearful of proposed EU environment laws, European commissioner for financial stability Mairead McGuinness has said, but they are “crucial” to restore nature.

Last week, the European People’s Party (EPP), of which she is a member, walked out of committee talks 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.

Ms McGuinness, a former Fine Gael MEP, said she helped shape the proposal as a member of the College of Commissioners.

However, she said farmers have “fear” over the economic implications of the legislation.

Mairead McGuinness
Mairead McGuinness said it is not the case that farmers will have to ‘hand over’ 20% of their land to nature (PA)

Speaking to RTE radio, she said: “I understand that some in the Parliament would like to go further and that gives fears in the minds of farmers around what it means for them.”

However, she said it is not the case that the proposal will force farmers to “hand over” 20% of their land to nature.

She said the law will be good for both farms and nature.

“But we will not deliver any of this without farmers, so we need them on board and we have to work with them to show them how we will assist them in the process,” she added.

Ms McGuinness said given her role as commissioner, it is not for her to comment on the EPP’s decision to walk out of committee talks on the matter.

“There is a crucial vote – we think it will happen next week – in the environment committee on this proposal and let’s wait and see how that goes.”

She said all groups need to be engaged on the matter.

“We have to work very hard in the commission to make sure that we are consistent and coherent around policy and that we listen to the concerns of farmers.”

She said there has been a lot of unnecessary divisive debate on the issue, adding: “Twitter has a lot to answer for.”

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