Nature Restoration Law: Youth needs your support

YEE and other youth organisations have sent this letter to European Parliament Members, ahead of the plenary vote on the Nature Restoration Law on Tuesday, February 27, 2024

On behalf of European youth, we are reaching out to you as a coalition of youth organizations representing more than 20 million young Europeans with the European environment at heart. On Tuesday the 27th of February, the European Parliament plenary meeting will take place in Strasbourg. We want to underscore the absolute necessity to vote in favor of the provisional agreement on the Nature Restoration Law, for our future, and the future of our and your children.

As young people, we are inheriting a degrading environment and climate which makes us currently see a gloomy future ahead of us. Every day, we witness more species becoming extinct and ecosystems continuing to degrade. It is proof that existing measures so far have been critically insufficient. We are even more worried due to the recent and ongoing watering down of environmental policies and laws at the EU and national level. 

This EU Nature Restoration Law is the only opportunity for us to get the chance to see nature improving across Europe and benefit from a healthy environment and climate. 

Opposing or further weakening the law would mean condemning our future and fully ignoring all the good things that nature brings to our society. It would mean that young people and future generations, the least responsible for the current crises, will have to address environmental emergencies at a great cost and risk. This is extremely unfair from an intergenerational equity perspective.

On Tuesday, you will cast a vote on our future. The outcome will greatly impact generations of Europeans to come, so we need your vote in favor of the Nature Restoration Law. 

Help us spread the word! Share this statement

Learn more about the #restorenature campaign

The recent positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament sends a strong message on the obligation to restore

Read More

The coalition of youth organisations released their statements about the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European

Read More

Join us and over 200 NGOs and ask your decision-makers to adopt a solid and urgent implementation of the law that can

Read More
, ,

Nature Restoration Law: Youth needs your support

Health first: The IED cannot deprive pollution victims of their rights

In 2023, toxic pollution has become the norm in Europe, with industrial complexes illegally polluting and causing harm to people's health. The Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), which governs emissions from various industries, is being updated by EU decision-makers. However, the draft law appears to be inadequate in protecting people from pollution.

Written by

Bellinda Bartolucci, ClientEarth

Alexandros Kassapis, Youth and Environment Europe

Contents

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It’s 2023 and exposure to toxic pollution is the norm in Europe.

Across the bloc, people are living in the shadow of industrial complexes that are still polluting illegally, eroding their health, and claiming lives.

This is a rights issue. An estimated 10% or more of Europe’s cancer burden is suspected to relate to pollution exposure, while EU premature deaths related to excessive levels of air pollution chart in the hundreds of thousands each year –
including minors, whose small bodies register big and lasting pollution impacts.

It’s hardly the futuristic picture we’d hoped for.

EU decision-makers are on the cusp of finalising the update of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). It governs the emissions of over 50,000 installations, including steelworks, chemicals and plastics facilities, coal plants and factory farms all over Europe – and it needs to be the most powerful tool to protect people that it can possibly be.

But on the contrary – the draft law looks set to blow over in the wind. From strong beginnings, we’re left with a nearly empty shell as far as people’s rights are concerned.

So what do our lawmakers need to do?

On your doorstep – what does industrial pollution
look like in Europe?

Pollution exposure is not just about isolated incidents – the reality is more insidious. From ‘forever chemicals’ to heavy metals, there are dramatic cases of chronic industrial pollution across Europe. Their impacts are startling reminders that industrial operations can cause severe illness and kill, in 21st century Europe.

There are ample examples of European workers and local residents – particularly children – being impacted by industrial pollution. A 5-year-old has died in Taranto, Italy, from a brain tumour – metal and dust particles from the local steel plant (Italy’s largest) were found in his brain. The local waters can’t be used to raise mussels because of iron dust levels.

Those living near antiquated coal plants in Bulgaria and Poland complain of stinging eyes and report respiratory ill-health. Towns near coal complexes in Bulgaria have been blanketed with air pollution for years – coal regions in the country chart the EU’s highest levels of sulphur dioxide pollution. But the government gave one of the local plants ongoing permission to pollute far above EU limits. 

The above cases were from facilities operating within the law. So it goes without saying that, at least in cases of illegal pollution, anyone suffering from its impacts should be able to go to court and stand a chance of receiving compensation for the damage – no? 

They pollute, you pay – why we need a real route to justice

If a facility is polluting beyond the limits allowed by the law, people suffering from health issues due to this illegal pollution must be able to access the courts for compensation. But the legal set-up right now makes it very difficult for anyone to hold Member States or industries to account

The European Commission has acknowledged this injustice and the new IED was supposed to fix this. The law included a new compensation right for victims of illegal pollution. But throughout the process, the real substance of this right has been systematically dismantled over the course of the negotiations – by now, it risks becoming an in-name-only gesture, which contains no actual avenue for people to access their rights.

With the current wording, negotiators have given the chop to the possibility of NGOs standing for sick people in class actions – vital given that in extreme cases, claimants have passed away before they could complete their actions. The law also relieves authorities of all legal responsibility for failing to enforce laws and therefore enabling health damages. 

People across Europe have been pushing for their rights to be reflected in the law. But pressure has been too strong and conflicting information has emerged throughout the process to derail positive lawmaking. This has got in the way of what this law is for: keeping people safe.

Youth and Environment Europe (YEE) have written to EU representatives to urge them to “prioritise health over illegal pollution” and adopt a real, functional compensation right. Along with a host of legal and consumer organisations, we highlighted that an inadequate law would fail people’s fundamental rights – the European Court of Human Rights has confirmed that harmful industrial pollution can give rise to individual compensation.

A turning point for victims of illegal industrial pollution – will lawmakers deliver?

An effective compensation right already exists in competition, data protection, anti-discrimination and consumer laws. It works for all parties involved and it ups compliance from the outset. Why should health be protected less? Contrary to industry claims, none of these types of rules have ever led to excessive litigation. In the case of the IED, only illegal polluters are exposed to the risk of litigation. Companies adhering to the rules have no reason to worry – and will actually benefit from a level playing field across the EU.

There is no justification for failing to apply it in the IED for victims of illegal pollution. This is a no-brainer.

An IED based on justice goes far beyond environmental action –  it is about helping victims on the ground. This is a major opportunity to bring back justice and finally offer protection for citizens across Europe. Missing it would be a statement by EU lawmakers that lawbreakers have officially taken precedence over people’s rights. 

Brussels should take a deep breath and consider this before they give the IED their final seal of approval.

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Health first: The IED cannot deprive pollution victims of their rights

One step closer to Nature Restoration – but not yet there | #RestoreNature

The recent positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament sends a strong message on the obligation to restore nature. While the European Union is positioning itself as a global champion in this area, it's important to acknowledge that almost half of the political representatives did not support this initiative fully. Amendments that substantially weakened the law were adopted, which falls short of what science tells us is urgently needed.

Recently we celebrated the positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament, which is sending a strong message: restoring nature is an obligation. The European Union has put itself on the path to being a champion and pioneer of nature restoration globally, living up to promises made to citizens and at the global negotiation table.

We thank all the MEPs that listened to our perspective, welcomed our recommendations and voted also for the next generations. We want to particularly show our appreciation towards the work and the words of Rapporteur César Luena, who publicly recognized the efforts made by youth in the advocacy for this law.

However, we cannot ignore that almost half of our political representatives refused to restore nature, cold-shouldered the youth and refused to guarantee us a liveable environment. The law is still far from what science tells us it is urgent to do.
We acknowledge with heavy hearts the adoption of amendments that substantially watered down the law. The amendments, especially those that delay targets and the initiation of actions, significantly shift the responsibility and efforts on us in the future. This is not fair from an intergenerational justice perspective, which the EU has agreed to respect as a guiding principle at COP15. In particular, refusal to accept the principle of non-deterioration means that we will continue to witness the degradation of our habitats, and so will our children and grandchildren.

Help us spread the word! Share this statement

“While the unity and the strong, loud voices of young people ahead of the plenary vote on the Nature Restoration Law once again demonstrated the will and drive for positive change, the very close vote showed that this is not the case for a lot of MEPs deciding on policies that will determine the state of the ecosystems we depend on. This law is not only about Nature Restoration. It is about fighting for the continued existence of a liveable planet, which the law that was adopted on the 12th of July, does not do. This is why our work is not done and we will continue to fight for a law that is just - not only for us, but for the planet and generations to come.“

Sophia Ullrich, Liaison Officer on Biodiversity at Youth and Environment Europe Tweet

“Heeding the calls of scientists, young people and environmental activists, a narrow majority of MEPs voted in favour of the Nature Restoration Law during the Plenary of the European Parliament, an outcome that was not guaranteed but one that we celebrate as young Europeans. However, the vote’s close margin of victory underscores the significant opposition still facing the Law. It has been compromised in the voting process and the resulting legal amendments the Parliament agreed upon severely weaken the effectiveness of the NRL in combating biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. We need a more ambitious Law to ensure a future where both people and planet can thrive! Our work is not done and we demand that the Commission, Council and Parliament pass a Law that is as strong as possible and does not put the burden of mitigating environmental damages and economic short-sightedness on future generations.“

Noah Stommel & Fenja Kroos, Project Leads on Nature Restoration at Generation Climate Europe Tweet
european young rewilders logo no background

“The positive vote in the Parliament is a bittersweet success. It is great to see many MEPs that listened to science and young people and to see the EU sending out this message, but the journey is still long. However, laws or not, restoration activities and initiatives have been growing exponentially in the past years. And this will never stop: the restoration and rewilding movement is a snowball in a free fall down a slope, getting bigger and bigger. While politicians discuss in rooms, tons of people, of young people, are out there restoring and rewilding. This is the future. The law is not as ambitious as we wanted it? Then we will be ambitious, and we can be it now.”

Giulia Testa, Coordinator of European Young Rewilders Tweet

“The vote in favour of nature was a crucial and most needed signal to the world.However, the narrow result, the disinformation campaign including blunt claims against all scientific evidence is very worrying for us. Let us hope, that during the Trialogue process some more common sense prevail and get something more ambitious than just restoring Nature 2000 areas. We all, and youth in particular, depend on a healthy environment - and we need to take the necessary steps to ensure them rather yesterday than tomorrow.”

Ronja Fischer, Co-Coordinator of Global Youth Biodiversity Network European Chapter Tweet

“The NRL is the most crucial legislation for european biodiversity of my lifetime. For environmentalists in every part of society to finally have political will on the environments side should be a celebration. But seeing the Law being so close to get rejected and at the moment being so watered down from it's once clear agenda of saving our nature, is a new way politicians have made me disappointed. However, youth will continue our efforts to restore Europe's biodiversity, and we hope one day the elected few will follow the actual will of the people and join us truly in stopping the biodiversity crisis.”

Oliwer Schultz, Coordinator of the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network (NYBN) Tweet

“The Parliament's vote can be seen as a positive development, acknowledging the efforts made to secure a more promising future for all. The approval of the Nature Restoration Law reflects a significant stance by EU institutions in support of nature, despite the fact that recent negotiations have led to a dilution of its original objectives. Regrettably, at the national level, we, as GYBN Italy, hold the view that the situation is even more unfavorable, and Italian youth have experienced deep disappointment. Italy should ideally take a leading role in the preservation and restoration of biodiversity. However, to our dismay, nearly all Italian MEPs voted against this vital legislation. This decision by the current political power has effectively disregarded the expectations of young people on almost every level. As a result, bitterness lingers among the younger generations, as they feel unrepresented, signifying that our endeavors to conserve and restore nature will not come to an end with this setback.”

Mattia Lucertini, Coordinator of GYBN Italy Tweet

"Even though negotiations for the Nature Restoration Law will see another day, the picture this whole process has painted is bleak, not only for Europe's nature and biodiversity, but for trust into political officials and democratic processes. Are we supposed to celebrate this small majority within Parliament that barely aknowledged science and the nature crisis?"

Julia Balasch, Coordinator of GYBN Austria Tweet

Read the youth position on EU Nature Restoration Regulation.

The coalition of youth organizations whose representatives released the statements above that elaborated the youth position represents more than 20 million young Europeans.

Learn more about the #restorenature campaign

The recent positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament sends a strong message on the obligation to restore

Read More

The coalition of youth organisations released their statements about the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European

Read More

Join us and over 200 NGOs and ask your decision-makers to adopt a solid and urgent implementation of the law that can

Read More
, ,

One step closer to Nature Restoration – but not yet there | #RestoreNature

Our future at stake: European youth urges once again to adopt an ambitious Nature Restoration Law

The coalition of youth organisations released their statements about the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European Parliament. 

We, as concerned youth all over Europe, want to reiterate the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European Parliament. 

What is being negotiated is not only a law: it is our future.

Young people and future generations deserve to grow up and live in healthy nature and functioning ecosystems. This, looking at the gloomy status of European species and habitats, can only be reached with an ambitious law that prescribes effective action now.
A watered-down law means postponing on us, later, the efforts that should be made now – and this is not fair.  

The rejection attempts by conservative and right-wing groups, led by the European People’s Party (EPP), are alarming, are failing youth, and are failing to consider us as stakeholders of the present and the future.

While we appreciate the efforts of other parliamentary groups such as the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Greens, and the Left, who have stood their ground and voted in favor of the Nature Restoration Law, we are disheartened by the disinformation campaign around this law. Spreading falsehoods and withdrawing from negotiations only hinders the progress necessary to address climate change and nature loss, gambling our future.

As the vote on the remaining amendments and the final report approaches on June 27th, we call on all Members of the European Parliament to prioritize the future of our planet and live up to their promises to youth. The Nature Restoration Law is not merely an environmental issue, it is a matter of intergenerational equity. 

Help us spread the word! Share this statement

“Let’s state it clearly: the success of the EU Green Deal depends on the adoption of the Nature Restoration Law. This is not just a political vote, but a matter of justice: the youngest and future generations, who will face the biggest impacts from climate change, need to be supported by strong environmental legislation today to be able to exercise many of their human rights tomorrow. The only fact that the law risks being blocked is a shame, and shows once again that the EU is not taking the climate crisis seriously. For the sake of the EU credibility and climate leadership globally, we urge policy-makers and political parties to align and adopt the law, as we are still on time to avoid the mistake of the century.“

Emma Pagliarusco, Advocacy & Policy Coordinator at Youth and Environment Europe Tweet

“On June 15th, the ENVI committee narrowly avoided a terrible setback for nature, by defeating attempts of right-winged groups to reject the Nature Restoration Law. While young Europeans can breathe a sigh of relief, the race to nature recovery is not over yet. As the voting continues on June 27th, European youth worry about what their future is going to look like.Young people have a right to live on a healthy and habitable planet, and political representatives have a duty to secure their future and the future of our next generations.“

Agata Meysner, Director at Generation Climate Europe Tweet
european young rewilders logo no background

“Despite positive steps at the last voting session, the sharp split in ENVI and the tight votes are worrying youth. In such short time spans, young Europeans have witnessed so much nature degradation, with very little improvement and increasing negative trends despite existing laws. This means that a strong law is not just an ambition, it is a necessity to get out of the business-as-usual framework: we need a game-changer. We urge MEPs to recognize this and vote (also) for the future of those that will have to deal with the consequences of current inaction, for our children and grandchildren. Together we can rally the resilience of nature to ensure functioning and healthy ecosystems, bringing not only food security but also hope to European citizens.”

Giulia Testa, Coordinator of European Young Rewilders Tweet

“The Nature Restoration Law is not only a matter of urgent importance for European Nature and critical for the living conditions we as youth will face in the future – it is also a crucial signal we are sending to other countries to live up to the commitments made in Montreal in December last year. Who, if not us, can be the ones going ahead and restoring our degraded landscapes? How can we expect other countries to live up to their promises, if we can’t do it? The European Union now has a chance to secure a better planet for the youth here and elsewhere in the world.”

Ronja Fischer, Co-Coordinator of Global Youth Biodiversity Network European Chapter Tweet

“The EU ratified the Global Biodiversity Framework in Montreal this Christmas, promising the world that restoring Nature would be the top priority. The Nature Restoration Law is the fruit of that labor. A great tool to finally reverse the loss of biodiversity. We cannot falter at the finishing line and reject the most crucial biodiversity legislation in Europe of this century. The Nordic youth urge our decision-makers in the EU to do what is right for the existing and future generations and vote YES to this Law.”

Oliwer Schultz, Coordinator of the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network (NYBN) Tweet

“Backed by scientific evidence, the Nature Restoration Law emerges as a transformative force that benefits both nature itself and humanity at large. Youth, as custodians of the future, urgently need this law to secure a thriving planet. It signifies a profound commitment to safeguarding biodiversity's intrinsic value, preserving the web of life that sustains us all. Recognizing that our own survival is intricately linked to the well-being of nature, we implore the Members of the European Parliament to secure a strong, ambitious Nature Restoration Law and forge a path towards a harmonious coexistence with the natural world.”

Mattia Lucertini, Coordinator of GYBN Italy Tweet

Only with intact ecosystems do we have a chance of overcoming the climate crisis. The proposed legislation would contribute significantly to the implementation of the EU's environmental and climate goals, safeguard the livelihoods of numerous species, and ultimately create a secure future for young and future generations. If the opposition and pushback against this law ought to show us one thing, it shows that the law has the potential to be truly transformative, this is why we see regressional voices spreading false information and doing dirty campaigning – they are afraid of transformative change! This short-sightedness and ignorance towards the ecological crises of our time endanger our future. No matter if on EU, national or regional level: those who block nature conservation and restoration today are jointly responsible for the advancement of the climate crisis and the stability of our future!"

Julia Balasch, Coordinator of GYBN Austria Tweet

Read the youth position on EU Nature Restoration Regulation.

The coalition of youth organizations whose representatives released the statements above that elaborated the youth position represents more than 20 million young Europeans.

Learn more about the #restorenature campaign

The recent positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament sends a strong message on the obligation to restore

Read More

The coalition of youth organisations released their statements about the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European

Read More

Join us and over 200 NGOs and ask your decision-makers to adopt a solid and urgent implementation of the law that can

Read More
, ,

Our future at stake: European youth urges once again to adopt an ambitious Nature Restoration Law

15th Task Force on Access to Justice | Statements of the Environmental Law Team

The Environmental Law Team of YEE actively participated in the 15th Task Force on Access to Justice in Geneva, sharing valuable insights.

The Environmental Law Team of YEE participated in the 15th Task Force on Access to Justice, which took place in Geneva from 4 to 5 April 2023. During the meeting, Emma and Alex delivered their statements, contributing to the exchange of information and best practices regarding the implementation of the Aarhus Convention’s access to justice pillar.

The purpose of the meeting was to facilitate the exchange of information, experiences, and best practices related to the implementation of the Convention’s access to justice pillar. The focus of the meeting was on access to justice in cases concerning climate change and biodiversity protection, with discussions covering current trends, barriers, challenges, good practices, and innovative approaches in these areas.

Aarhus Taskforce statement by YEE

Summary of Emma’s statement regarding the tools to promote Access to Justice

The latest IPCC report emphasizes that climate change will mainly impact children and young people, highlighting the need for long-term considerations and intergenerational equity in environmental legislation. Young people also face challenges in exercising their rights under the Aarhus Convention. The Aarhus Convention is important for environmental democracy, granting the public rights in environmental matters to protect the rights of present and future generations. Strengthening multi-stakeholder dialogue can ensure easier youth access to decision-making processes and hold institutions accountable.

It is extremely urgent to safeguard access to justice in energy-related cases, especially in light of the acceleration the energy transition is going through: its fast pace leaves big gaps and errors, and the Aarhus Convention has a crucial role in filling them.

Summary of Alex’s statement regarding Access to Justice in energy-related cases

Dependency on fossil fuel imports hampers energy independence and is finite, posing a threat to future generations. The Aarhus provisions play a crucial role in ensuring that energy supply in the EU has a positive impact on nature and communities. However, legislative proposals may impede access to justice in energy-related cases, prioritising renewable energy development over environmental protection and community engagement. The Aarhus rights, including access to justice, play a crucial role in promoting renewable energy, environmental protection, and public participation.

Learn more about the Aarhus Convention

Why Aarhus State Parties fall short of their obligation to guarantee the right to public participation of young people in environmental decision-making?

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The EU is in breach of its obligations under the Aarhus Convention. Young people all over Europe are joining civil society organizations

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15th Task Force on Access to Justice | Statements of the Environmental Law Team