Living within Planetary Boundaries – The Safe and Just Space for the People of Europe

Environmental Pillar Consultation Response to: 7th Environmental Action Programme (7EAP)Consultation
Download:Environmental Pillar Submission on the 7EAP
 Consultation Response: May 2012


Introduction to The Environmental Pillar – Who are we?
1.      The need for a strong 7th Environmental Action Programme – Stepping back from the Limits of Planetary Boundaries.
2.      Reduction of the EU’s Ecological Footprint to match its ecological resources.
3.      Recognise, confirm and act within planetary boundaries.

a.      Climate and energy.

b.      Biodiversity and soil.

c.      Marine.

d.      Environmental health.

e.      Tree-cover.

f.      Water.

g.      Waste Prevention and Resource Efficiency –EU policies in terms of Food Waste.

4.      The Green Economy.
5.      Economics of Sustainability.
6.      Environmental Democracy.
7.      Implementation and enforcement.

Introduction to The Environmental Pillar – Who are we?

The Environmental Pillar was included as the fifth pillar of Ireland’s Social Partnership in April 2009, and is made up of 27 national environmental NGOs, acting together as one social partner alongside the Trade Unions, the Employers, the Farmers and the Community and Voluntary Pillars.  Although the national arrangements for Social Partnership are not functioning at present, the Environmental Pillar is working through Social Dialogue with the other social partners and government at the national and local levels to:

  • promote the protection and enhancement of the environment, together with;
  • the creation of a viable economy and a just society; without compromising the viability of the planet on which we live for current and future generations of all species and ecosystems.

Our basic premise is that:
The continuing success of human society and social systems depends fundamentally on the preservation of the overall productivity, health, and long term sustainability of the ecosystems and environmental services that underpin and supply many of the most basic components of human welfare such as a healthy biodiversity, productive soils, clean water, and clean air.
Member Organisations of the Environmental Pillar:
An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, CELT (Centre for Environmental Living and Training), CoastWatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Crann, ECO-UNESCO, FEASTA, Forest Friends, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan (GAP Ireland), Gluaiseacht, GRIAN, Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association (IDEA), Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT), , Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Irish Natural Forestry Foundation (INFF), Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Seed Savers Association, Irish Whale & Dolphin Group, Sonairte, Sustainable Ireland Cooperative (Cultivate), The Organic Centre, VOICE, Zero Waste Alliance.
Whilst this document was developed through the processes of the Environmental Pillar it does not necessarily represent the policies of all its members.
For further details please contact:
Michael Ewing, Coordinator.
Environmental Pillar.
Tullyval, Knockvicar, Boyle, Co Roscommon, Ireland
Telephone: 00353 (0)71 9667373
Mobile: 00353 (0)86 8672153

Human Society emerged from, and is entirely reliant for its survival on, the natural environment. Economic systems are created to serve society and can be changed by society.  Human society on its present course, with a rapidly growing population, and with an economic system based on an ever increasing use and abuse of natural resources, is destined to destroy the natural systems on which it relies for its survival.

1. The need for a strong 7th Environmental Action Programme – Stepping back from the Limits of Planetary Boundaries

At a time when Europe’s political leaders are focussing on the latest economic crisis, the far more significant crisis of a rapidly accelerating breakdown of ecosystems is pushed well down the agenda. The EU as a whole continues to give only a limited regard for these natural resources that we rely on for the fundamentals of life. The short-term economic bottom line over-rules all other concerns. This is still the case, despite the growing awareness within the EU that humanity’s economic construct is best served by long-term planning; and that this in turn has to be based on the understanding that ecosystem services are fundamental to human well-being.  The 7EAP must to be based on the understanding defined in the box above, and must be integrated as an overarching programme into all aspects of the work of the EU, and signed up to and implemented by all the institutions of the Union.
The continued emphasis on economic growth as a key to the success of society flies in the face of the reality that our species is living on a finite planet with finite resources, and a finite ecological carrying capacity.  The 7EAP must stress the importance of protecting our ecological assets. These assets are at the core of our long-term wealth and well-being.  The conventional “grow first, and clean up” path of development urgently needs to shift to a “green” path of development one which will result in a healthy, socially inclusive, productive , equitable, and more resilient society. The success of human society can no longer be based solely on financial metrics such as GDP or GNP, which measure financial activity regardless of whether it is good or bad for society. More prisoners, more ill-health, more waste etc. are all measured as positives within these yardsticks.  The success of a green economy must be counted differently.
The 6th Environmental Action Programme (6EAP) runs till mid-2012, and it looks like there will now be a hiatus of 18 months before its successor is approved.  This serious delay is in itself characteristic of the lack of regard given to integrated sustainable development by the EU. This is despite the requirement of Article 11 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Strong environmental integration
Article 11 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union prescribes that:
“Environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Union policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development.”

The 6EAP has intrinsic weaknesses and these are compounded by poor implementation.  Its implementation has been compromised by a combination of lack of ambition of the Commission and resistance from Member States and business interests.
The costs of maintaining Europe’s wealth and social stability through increasing the use and consumption of natural resources are prohibitively high, further aggravating the economic and financial crises and leading to increased social unrest.
Despite many positive piecemeal environmental policy initiatives in Europe, and some limited progress in ‘decoupling’ economic growth and material resource use, the ecological footprint of the EU continues to grow and to become even less sustainable.  The lack of integration of the EUSDS, and of the 6EAP, into the many facets of the EU, has left these two documents largely as paper tigers. The failure to integrate these into the mainstream of EU action has been at the cost of the health and well-being of the peoples of Europe as well as those in other parts of the planet.  It has also been at the cost of the many species that have been driven to extinction because of our exploitative activities.
In the 1960’s Europe’s ecological footprint matched the capacity of the European Biosphere that supported it.  Today the ecological footprint of Europe is roughly three times that size. Slightly more than half of this overstepping of the bio-capacity by the EU is caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions while the other is due to excessive use of natural resources.
In order to bring the environment to the centre of all EU decision-making, the 7EAP has to be integrated into the decision-making and actions of all the institutions of the Union.  The road to a sustainable future for Europe is going to require a strong 7EAP with absolute buy-in from these same institutions as well as its peoples.  The 7EAP has to provide a comprehensive and consistent environmental framework for policy making in the EU, which translates new insights regarding ecological boundaries into robust and ambitious policy targets and concrete actions.
The 7EAP must help the EU to get out of a decade of de-regulation and move rapidly towards open and dynamic policy making. There are many policy and regulatory gaps to be filled. But the 7EAP will have to go beyond that and tackle the major gaps in implementation and enforcement. The processes of adoption and implementation must be open and inclusive if they are to succeed.  Radical behavioural change will be required and this can only be achieved through popular buy-in based on a wide-spread understanding and acceptance of the need to implement the necessary changes.
The 7EAP is a great opportunity to change the way in which environmental policies are portrayed.   It needs to provide direction, guidance and institutional buy-in for the many good ideas put forward in the dozens of existing policies, roadmaps, strategy papers et al.
The 7EAP would need to feature:

  • A vision, translated into specific targets for the 10 year period of the Programme;
  • Progress towards a new economic paradigm that is not based on ever increasing impacts on the biosphere
  • Solution oriented and effective policies and clear action priorities;
  • A radical review and revision of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy so that it fully responds to the challenges identified by the Rio+20 Conference
  • Deeper and stronger integration into economic and sectoral policies;
  • Accompanying funding instruments that ensure coherence with the objectives of the related policies;
  • The principles of prevention, precaution, polluter pays and substitution at the basis.

2. Reduction of the EU’s Ecological Footprint to match its ecological resources

The increasing pressure on land-use for the production of food, fuel and fibre has serious implications. The demand for agricultural products beyond food is growing and will continue to do so. Biofuels are likely to be followed by plastics and other bio-based products. Similar tendencies are apparent in forestry.
Combined with increasing urban sprawl, desertification in parts of Europe, and land loss due to sea level rise, wise land-use management will play a crucial role in reducing our ecological footprint.
As land-based resources become scarcer, the race to the seas and oceans is on: not only are we severely overfishing biological resources, but the exploitation of mineral resources is also causing environmental degradation. Competition for marine space is pushing marine species and habitats into smaller areas, and the effects of climate change are putting additional pressure on marine ecosystems. Marine spatial planning and sustainable use of marine (biotic and abiotic) resources will be the key to reducing Europe’s environmental footprint.
The markets are unlikely to reflect these serious inroads into our natural capital, and if they react at all it is likely to be after the tipping points are reached.  Placing realistic socio-economic vales on ecological resources is one way of ensuring evidence based decision-making that is not subject to the whims of the market place.  The 7EAP must contain a clear strategy to reduce the Ecological Footprint of Europe to the carrying capacity of its ecological services at the latest by 2030, with an interim target of a 35% reduction during the lifetime of the 7EAP.
The proposal of Friends of the Earth Europe and the Sustainable Europe Research Institute is a good starting point.  They suggest four indicators, each one having reduction targets and appropriate policies to reach same:

  • Land: the total area used in hectares;
  • Materials: the total tonnage used, divided into biological and mineral materials;
  • Water: water footprint, measured in litres;
  • Climate: carbon footprint, including the carbon emissions associated with imported products.

These should focus on: both supply and demand; on dematerialisation and re-use; on standardisation and market instruments; and on innovation and information.

3. Recognise, confirm and act within planetary boundaries


Fig.  A safe operating space for humanity
Identifying and quantifying planetary boundaries that must not be transgressed could help prevent human activities from causing unacceptable environmental change, argued Johan Rockström and colleagues in 2009. Source Oxfam inspired by Rockström et al.  From a purely selfish anthropocentric point of view, a safe operating space for humanity cannot exist whilst we continue to kill off the other species of plants and animals that provide many of the services that humanity relies on for its well-being.  However, the Environmental Pillar would add that the whole diversity of life deserves a safe operating space too, and we as a species are reducing their space too.

The impacts of the EU’s policies and programmes as well as those of the Member States are by no means contained within the territory of the Union.  Their direct and indirect consequences are pushing the planetary boundaries and damaging ecosystems across the globe.  The 7EAP must incorporate measures to contain and reduce these impacts, in particular under the following headings.

a. Climate and energy

In relation to internal EU climate policy- there are welcome references in the background consultation document to the 2050 roadmap and the principle of long-term targets for the EU and its Member States.  Long term targets lead to a need for interim targets and the urgent development of policies and measures for both 2050 and for the resultant interim targets.
The commitment in the background consultation document to integrate climate change policy across the policies of the EU is welcome, but it is at the same time an indication of how far we have to go and of how poorly the long-declared process of integration of environmental policies has worked. Despite the fact that almost 20 years has elapsed since the 1992 Rio conference and the fact that climate change has the highest profile among environmental policy issues in the EU, the Commission effectively recognises in the background document that enormous work still needs to be done to integrate it into other policy areas.
In relation to the international negotiations- it is now clear that the UNFCCC process is failing to put us on a path towards the Convention goal of avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system.  Therefore the EU needs to move ahead in climate policy together with those other countries which are willing to act in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and their respective capacities.  This cooperation, if adequate to meet the goal referred to, would necessarily involve the use of border tariffs in respect of countries which are not willing to act in accordance with those principles.
In this context, alternative/complementary approaches such as those documented in the WRI/UNEP working paper “Designing the International Climate Regime” should be considered.
In order to maintain the EU lead regarding emission reductions in transport the 7EAP should include the development of regulatory targets of 80g/km and 60g/km for 2020 and 2025 respectively. For vans, the target of 120g/km should be set for 2020..

b. Biodiversity and soil

Biodiversity must be a key aspect embedded in the development of future economic, social and environmental policies. Biodiversity here refers to the wide variety of ecosystems and living organisms: animals, plants, their habitats and their genes.
These are important social, cultural and economic assets as well as having an intrinsic value in their own right.  They are our natural capital, and they should be present at the heart of the European Green Economy in recognition of the fact that economic prosperity depends on maintaining and enhancing the EU’s assets: human, social, produced, financial and natural capital.
The value of biodiversity to the Irish economy alone has been calculated at €2.6 billion per annum. This is a conservative estimate, which does not take into account several important services unique to Ireland.
Integration of biodiversity into the 7EAP should be delivered through a range of approaches, including:

  • Increased integration of agricultural and environmental policies.
    A thriving Biodiversity is an integral part of the agricultural landscape and essential to maintaining productivity and sustainability of agriculture. The implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy provides a key opportunity in this regard.
  • Recognition in future climate policy of the contribution that the natural
    landscape can bring to mitigation against and adaptation to climate change. Biodiversity, and the ecosystem services that it provides, plays a crucial role in regulating climate. Numerous adaption and mitigation measures against climate change may be based on natural ecosystem functions.
  • Expansion and increased interconnection of the Natura 2000 network with more resources dedicated to their designation, protection and monitoring. The development of recognised ecological networks through defined ‘Green Infrastructure’ between these protected sites would also contribute significantly to their conservation.
  • Ensuring that all EU countries ratify the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing and agree on the resource mobilisation strategy.

c. Marine

Compared to terrestrial ecosystems, protection and conservation of the marine environment has lagged considerably behind. Yet, a healthy marine environment is a precondition for sustainable economic and social development in all marine sectors.  Activities should be measured in terms of Total Economic Values, which incorporate both market and non-market values and costs, rather than GDP or GVA. All stakeholders including environmental representatives, local communities and the general public should be sufficiently and independently briefed to be able to formulate evidence- based responses and comments to proposed policies and decisions. A governance framework that ensures policy is decided and implemented at the most appropriate levels and in a transparent way, with the meaningful participation of the stakeholders in order to achieve the desired objectives must be prioritised in the 7EAP.
The 7EAP must promote more integrated, resource-centred marine planning and conservation policy. Environmental objectives must be enshrined in the CFP as a prerequisite to fulfilling social and economic objectives, and the CFP reform must ensure that:

  • fishing capacity is reduced to match available resources
  • Measures to reduce capacity must ensure that the remaining fleet is sustainable in size and characteristics
  • fishing opportunities for all commercial stocks are set according to scientific advice aimed at achieving BMSY by 2015
  • at least 10% of territorial waters in the EU will be designated fish stock recovery areas where commercial extractive fishing activities (though not, necessarily, recreational angling) are prohibited
  • there is a ban on discards
  • there is a greater emphasis on the development and use of selective fishing gear; and that
  • fuel subsidies are discontinued as they prevent the natural correction rising fuel prices would normally have on fishing capacity
  • low impact fishing is incentivized; under the reformed CFP, those who fish in the most sustainable way should be given priority access to fishing grounds
  • Public aid supports the recovery of fish stocks, facilitates the transition towards sustainable fisheries and provides value to society

Mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that all requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive are adequately transposed into the Member States’ national law and enforced. Furthermore provisions should be made that ensure that there are sufficient resources made available for achieving the objectives of the instrument. Instead of a requirement to give ‘due consideration to sustainable development’ there should be an absolute requirement for all approved activities in the marine environment to comply with sustainable development and the precautionary principle. The same standards for environmental compliance should be applied in all EU member States, by all sectors, and government departments irrespective of their specific remit.
Finally the 7EAP must include the establishment of a Pan European Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary and, following the example of protection measures announced by the Scottish Government, a greater protection of sharks, skates and rays in European Waters.

Putting value on Marine Biodiversity
White sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters and world-class diving are probably pictures we all have in mind about the Maldives. Diving with sharks, and especially whale sharks, attract tourists from all over the world to these remote Indian Ocean atolls and has helped to make them one of the top destinations for diving in the world.
A valuation study recently revealed that grey reef sharks were valued at US$ 3,300/year per individual to the tourism industry in contrast to US$ 32 for a single catch. The study determined that protection was in the best economic interest of the country and, using the results to inform their protection measures, the Republic of Maldives is the second nation after Palau to announce blanket protection for sharks. Beginning July 1 2010, a total ban on exports was declared.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)

d. Environmental health

The health of the biosphere and its constituent ecosystems and biodiversity, is a primary indicator for the health and well-being of humanity. The improvement of the health and wellbeing of the planet’s human population should be a clear and measurable priority for the 7EAP. Human health is dependent upon the health of the ecosystems of which man is just one part.  When species start to disappear or dramatically change, it is likely that the cause of the decline will also adversely affect humanity’s health and well-being.
Health indicators are critical to sustainable development and should be part of all planning, assessing, monitoring and evaluation of all EU policies, programmes, plans and legislation.  In this context, the 7EAP should prioritise the introduction of mandatory Health Impact Assessment (HIA) as a means of assessing the health impacts of same, using quantitative, qualitative and participatory techniques.  This should include food quality and nutrition, both of which are having serious effects on human health in the EU.  HIA should at least inform all decisions on: water; the economy; agriculture; energy supply; transportation; the marine environment; and strategies for disaster prevention and management.
The 7EAP should also:

  • Continue to develop knowledge of links between environment and health, particularly in dealing with low doses and multiple exposure effects.
  • Improve methods for risk assessment of endocrine disrupting chemicals and incorporate such methods in all EU legislation on chemicals. Special attention should be paid to low dose effects.
  • Prioritise action to identify and protect vulnerable groups, and to ensure the creation of a permanent system for human bio-monitoring to provide evidence of long-term health effects.
  • Have higher ambition in the areas of air and water quality. Upgrading of the National Emission Ceilings Directive without further delay.
  • Have a focus on prevention rather than cure – designing out potential health hazards using development of tools such as green engineering, eco-design and green chemistry.
  • Consider and recognize the preventive health effect of nature in everyday life, by ensuring protection of areas within and adjacent to habitation (nature reserves, urban woods etc.).

e. Tree-cover

Tree cover can play a significant role in addressing climate change, reducing dependency on fossil fuels, preserving and enhancing biodiversity and in making the EU a healthy place to live. The 7th EAP should recognise the integrated nature of tree cover policies, and ensure that member states approach the management of this natural resource with a strategy that is holistic in its approach and multi-sectoral in its implementation.
Tree cover development must be included as part of the agricultural industry and integrated into agricultural support programs such as the Common Agricultural Policy and the Disadvantaged Area Scheme.  Native provenance trees should be compulsory as part of any afforestation or reforestation.
The planting of monocultures designed for large scale clear-fell is in conflict with the principles of economically, socially and environmentally sustainable practices and should be discontinued.  The 7EAP should include a commitment to end this practice.
Tree Cover considerations need to be placed at the centre of other policy areas to reinforce the interconnected nature of the various aspects of the environment, namely soil, water, climate change, green economy et al.
The 7EAP must focus on a change of the mind-set that sees woodlands are for environmental returns and that plantations are for economic return. The establishment of a sustainable forest industry that can be both environmentally beneficial and provide economic returns and ancillary economic benefits is critical.  A pan-European robust implementation strategy for all regulations that are both directly and indirectly related to tree cover issues is overdue and should be a key policy goal of this EAP.

f. Water

The EU funded Water Quality Fitness Check of June 2011 suggests that the policy laid out in the Water Framework Directive is robust and largely coherent with other EU environmental laws. However, implementation remains challenging and makes the achievements of the 2015 targets uncertain. The EU needs to step up action on policy integration, particularly with regard to using water in agriculture and buildings more efficiently. The Member States have made only sluggish progress with introducing economic instruments such as water pricing, while the principle of cost-recovery remains controversial.
The 7EAP should:

  • Close the legal gaps inside the EU freshwater policy due to a combination of a lack of clarity regarding certain aspects or simply due to missing legislation or policy guidance that could further support the achievement of the EU objectives.
  • Ensure cohesion between water policy and agricultural policy, cohesion policy, industrial Policy et al
  • Push for an agreed definition of, and action on, cost recovery in water services.
  • Ensure that Article 14 of the Water Framework Directive is fully implemented in accordance the Aarhus Convention

The Environmental Pillar: underlines the importance of the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life; highlights the critical importance of water resources for sustainable development, including poverty and hunger eradication, public health, food security, hydropower, agriculture and rural development; and recognises the necessity of setting goals for wastewater management, including reducing water pollution from households, industrial and agricultural sources and promoting water efficiency, wastewater treatment and the use of wastewater as a resource, particularly in expanding urban areas.

g. Waste Prevention and Resource Efficiency –EU policies in terms of Food Waste

The EU is pushing forward a progressive agenda to promote waste prevention and resource efficiency.  It has also recognised the impact food waste has on the environment as a huge element of the EU’s waste stream.  The EU Parliament passed a resolution earlier this year which stated that on average, Europe throws away 89 million tonnes of food waste  which equates to 170 million tonnes equivalent of CO2 being released into the air.  The Parliament has also declared 2014 as “the European Year to fight against food waste.”
An effective way to reduce food waste is by supporting the establishment of food banks, which exist in many EU countries.  While some supermarkets, food distributors, restaurants, caterers and farmers donate their surplus food to food banks, much of our edible food is still being discarded.   The EU should adopt methods to encourage food donation, such as:

  1. Limiting liability on the donors of surplus food.
  2. Requiring the disclosure of the amount of edible food disposed commercially on an annual basis to create a baseline.
  3. Establish a food bank development fund to help countries create a food bank system.  Once a food bank is established, it should be self-financing in the future.

The reduction of food waste is consistent with the EU’s efforts in waste prevention.  Additionally, by encouraging the donation of surplus food to charities, it ties in with the EU’s goal of improving health and well-being by increasing food security and reducing food poverty.  This effectively links health and the environment.
The 7EAP should also include measures to close the nutrient cycles by capturing all food waste and other biological wastes for anaerobic digestion and organic fertiliser production.
Recognising that in order to increase efficient resource use the 7EAP should include the ambition to make the EU a leader in “waste” resource reuse and recycling. This should include a progressive review of the recycling Directives to boost the reuse and recycling of a wide range of critical materials, including, in particular, rare earths that are extracted from conflict areas of the planet.

4. The Green Economy

The 7EAP should categorise the various sectors within the green economy model, and define the opportunities for employment and economic, social and environmental return from those sectors. The EU has not projected the employment creation potential of any of the large sectors it is subsidising. For example, there is no estimate or target of how many jobs will be created by the CAP, despite job creation being a key policy goal.  Investing for the future – More jobs out of a greener EU budget estimates that for every billion invested in CAP only 3,000 to 6,000 jobs are created, compared with approximately ten times this or up to 52,700 jobs this from the same investment in the green economy.
At the same time it is essential that the 7EAP makes clear what is meant by the Green Economy.  A Green Economy must:

  • Have at its centre the principles of sustainable development as outlined in Agenda 21
  • Deliver all three pillars of sustainable development (social, environmental and economic)
  • Be in harmony with nature, and respect environmental limits
  • Be characterised by low-carbon development and resource efficiency, which reflects the true value of the environment to human wellbeing.
  • Recognise the crucial underpinning provided by biodiversity and ecosystem services, and thus the fundamental importance of nature conservation to economic prosperity and poverty eradication.
  • Use the effective solutions that are offered by nature to many global challenges, including water, food security and climate change.
  • Support globally agreed goals across the Rio Conventions.
  • Encompass the marine environment (the ‘blue economy’) ensuring ecologically sustainable fisheries, the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of vital ecosystem services.
  • Include good governance, participation and education, empowering people to make sustainable choices to improve livelihoods and enhance wellbeing.

Key areas for job creation in the Green Economy must include:

  1. Sustainable Transport – railway construction and maintenance, upstream supplies (raw materials, design)
  2. Energy Savings in Buildings – construction
  3. Conservation/Natura 2000 – installations and land management
  4. Renewable Energies – production and installation, upstream supplies (machines and raw materials)
  5. Closing the nutrient cycles by capturing all food waste and other biological wastes for anaerobic digestion and organic fertiliser production
  6. A broad range of measures for developing resilience to the consequences of Climate Change.

5. Economics of Sustainability

The Member States and the EU bodies continue in their failure to recognise that the emphasis on economic growth in the EU is a root cause of the sustainability crisis.  This emphasis stems from the requirement for growth forced on society by the nature of the money system used both in the euro-zone and in the rest of the EU, (as well as most other countries) within which money is created by being lent into existence at interest. A debt driven economy requires growth just to stand still.
A detailed public examination of the money systems and their role in the transition to a sustainable economy must be an early priority for the 7EAP, in order identify what reforms are needed to facilitate the transition to a truly Green Economy.
In 2006 the European Council, as part of the reviewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy, called upon the Commission to come, by 2008, with a “Roadmap for the reform, sector by sector, of subsidies that have considerable negative effects on the environment and are incompatible with sustainable development, with a view to gradually eliminating them.”  This action should be prioritised immediately, and the processes recommended in the 2009 Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) study implemented as a first step.
The Environmental Pillar urges the polluter pays principle to be applied systematically, and consequently the 7EAP should also focus on:

  • Systematic promotion of environmental taxation, including reduced rates for environmentally friendly products and services
  • By 2020 a shift of at least 10% of the national tax incomes away from labour to environmental
  • pressures, resource use and capital, This would encourage more efficient resource use, taxing what we want less (resource depletion and pollution) instead of taxing what we want more (income and employment).
  • Cutting off or redirecting any funding that harms the EU’s environmental objectives, including global impacts, or increases EU’s energy and resource use. Review the rules of EU institutions to this end.
  • An improved Emission Trading Scheme, complementary to a wider tax package, as a central market instrument to help ensure absolute emission reductions in the sectors it covers, while also helping to promote the use of efficient, sustainable technologies. For that purpose, accelerate the move to 100% auctioning.
  • A revised legal framework for green public procurement with EU wide mandatory and ambitious
  • Targets aiming at 100% green public procurement as soon as possible. With clear definitions on what are “green” products and services to avoid abuse of this concept

6. Environmental Democracy

Active involvement of the public should be a key element of the 7EAP.
The 7th EAP therefore should:

  • Underline the important role of environmental citizens’ organisations in the promotion of effective environmental policies across the EU. The 7EAP should include a commitment to continue and increase support to such organisations in the fulfilment of that role.
  • Make enforcement of EU environmental law a priority and propose concrete proposals on how both assistance for citizens and legal action can increase the real implementation on the ground of EU legislation, including through a mandate and capacity for an EU Environmental Inspection.
  • Organisation of systematic trainings and exchange of best practices between implementing authorities, at all levels, in a manner transparent to the general public.
  • A critical review of the implementation of the Aarhus Convention inside the EU, in particular on public participation and access to justice. Adoption of the draft Access to Justice Directive (as amended by the European Parliament in 2004).
  • Realisation of the right of standing of environmental citizens organisations with the European Court of Justice when defending the common good of environmental protection, as laid down in the EU acquis.
  • A policy of increased transparency and involvement towards complainants by the Commission in the follow up of complaints received.

Public active engagement and support is essential for the successful implementation of EU environmental policies. Civil society organisations can play a crucial role as liaison between EU institutions and the general public. Such organisations can engage in the decision making process, but as important, see to it that EU legislation is being applied.

7. Implementation and enforcement

The Commission needs to increase and improve enforcement of EU environmental law.  Enforcement should be the norm, across the EU.  This will increase the environmental impact of EU Law, creating a level playing field for economic operators and ensuring the public that the EU is practicing what it preaches.
Support for citizen monitoring and reporting will enhance the ability of governments and the EU to enforce environmental legislation
The recent draft findings of the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention[i], in relation to the Commission’s obligations to oversee implementation of the Convention, underline the need for greater oversight by the EU.  The Committee is of the view that these obligations are not met by a system which is dependent on the making of complaints.  Similar considerations may apply to the Commission’s EU law obligations in its role as guardian of the treaty, although we are unaware of any legal consideration of this.   Whether it meets the treaty requirements or not, it is clear that the current complaints-led system is inadequate in achieving prompt and full compliance with EU environmental law, as well as failing to meet the EU’s legal obligations in respect of matters which fall under the Aarhus Convention. Therefore the Environmental Pillar urges the EU to significantly boost its environmental law compliance capabilities and to station relevant staff in each Member State.

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