EU Nature Law Passed After Austrian Minister Bucks Chancellor

(Bloomberg) -- European Union member states finally signed off on a controversial law to restore nature across the bloc after Austria’s climate minister backed the deal despite opposition from her boss and coalition partners.

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Leonore Gewessler voted in favor of returning at least 20% of the area’s land and sea back to its original state, breaking a deadlock among EU states but pitting her against Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

“I know I will face opposition on this, but I am convinced this is the time to adopt this law,” Gewessler said before the meeting of environment ministers in Luxembourg. “There is a time for change, there is a moment for change. And this moment is now.”

Gewessler doesn’t have a mandate to shift the country’s stance, Nehammer said in a letter to Alexander de Croo, prime minister of Belgium, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, according to APA news service. The Austrian government will challenge the law’s approval at the European Court of Justice, he said.

But Gewessler said her consenting vote is lawful. The rift underscores differences between Austria’s coalition partners before national elections in September.

The Nature Restoration Law is one of the most contested pieces in the EU’s green deal, which aims to put the continent on the path to climate neutrality by midcentury.

Right-wing lawmakers in parliament and a number of countries — including Italy, the Netherlands and Poland — all signaled their opposition amid farmers’ protests and concerns that the rules are too restrictive.

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