The debate on the EU’s proposed nature restoration law has reached a “critical juncture”, but it is not yet known whether a sufficient number of MEPs will allow the proposals to pass, according to Commissioner Mairead McGuinness.

Last week saw the largest group of MEPs in the European Parliament (EPP) walk out of talks on proposals.

The nature restoration law puts forward legally-binding targets for the rewetting and restoration of ecosystems, including specific targets for farmland biodiversity.

“Well, I can’t comment on that because we don’t know,” Commissioner McGuinness responded to an RTÉ Morning Ireland question on whether the law can still pass without EPP backing.

“We have to see what emerges from the environment committee and see what other groups take a slightly different view than the EPP or indeed take the same view.

“I know across some groups that there are some divisions within groups. This legislation I suppose is at a critical juncture. Remember, legislation doesn’t get implemented immediately, it is over time.”

Key vote nears

Commissioner McGuinness’s comments come just over a week before MEPs on the European Parliament’s environment committee vote on their position on the proposals.

The vote will set out which way negotiations between MEPs, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission go.

The ministers have been seeking more flexibility and a reduction in targets from what the Commission originally proposed.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher stated this week that he welcomed the committee’s moves to soften its position, having initially sought higher targets.

It is now looking to restore an area equivalent to 70% of the country’s drained, farmed peatlands and to rewet half of this.

“This is of course better but from Ireland’s perspective, but we still need to see more progress towards reaching the same targets as those that the Irish Government are supporting at the Council of Ministers,” the MEP said.

“The Commission’s targets would require the re-wetting of farmland, even with Ireland making full use of Bord na Móna and Coillte lands. From an Irish perspective, this cannot be on the table.”