Clarity around who will fund the actions required under the nature restoration law must be provided as a matter of urgency, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has insisted.
The revised nature restoration law was passed by the European Parliament last week and will now proceed to trialogue discussions in Brussels involving the European Council of Ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament.
However, there have been suggestions that some Nordic states have been given assurances that any costs associated with the law will not be carried by the EU.
The INHFA maintained that if such an assurance was provided to member states, then this should be made public. It said the source of funding for the nature restoration law must also be outlined.
“With regard to Council of Ministers discussions, we need clarity on any assurances given to any member state regarding the nature restoration law and, specifically, if any guarantee, or understanding, was made around the issue of EU funding for the law,” said INHFA president Vincent Roddy.
Roddy pointed out that funding was a critical issue for the farmers who will be affected by the nature restoration law.
This very subtle change is the strongest indication yet that member states want the option to renege on any financial support
“In the original commission proposal, we see in Article 11(9) how member states shall when preparing the restoration plan ‘aim at optimising the ecological, economic and social functions of ecosystems as well as their contributions to the sustainable development of the relevant regions and communities’.
“However, in the Council of Ministers text ‘shall’ has been amended to ‘may’. This very subtle change is the strongest indication yet that member states want the option to renege on any financial support, as Ireland currently does on the Natura 2000 network of designated SACs [special areas of conservation] and SPAs [special protected areas],” Roddy explained.
“This is one of few places in the overall nature restoration law where landowners, farmers and communities get any protection; and consideration is given to the financial impact of this law on them. So, a change such as this is shocking,” the INHFA leader claimed.
“It is vital that Minister Eamon Ryan, who is the minister negotiating in Europe on this, now clarifies the position around CAP and if there are discussions to use current CAP funding to deliver on any element of the nature restoration law,” Roddy said.
“We also need to establish if funding allocated to the nature restoration law will be directed at the cost of habitat restoration or re-establishment. Or are we looking at a fund to pay farmers and landowners for loss of income?” he asked.
“Or does this fund include both? And, if so, what size of a fund are we looking at, and what percentage will be allocated to each of these two elements?” Roddy added.