Green transition at stake, caution NGOs
20 November 2012, Europolitics
On the eve of the European Council of 22-23 November, focused on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) 2014-2020, environmental organisations warned that the existing budget proposals will not allow the transition to a green economy foreseen under the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy. This opportunity cannot be passed up, note the organisations, which point out that there are “many possibilities to spend available funds better and steer them to green sectors that create growth and jobs”. As it stands, the “proposed budget reflects the special interests of each member state, not the interests of the EU as a whole,” regret the NGOs.
BirdLife Europe, Conservation International Europe, CEE Bankwatch Network Europe, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE), Transport & Environment (T&E) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) are concerned. Not only will EU environment policy pay the price of the haggling under way, but the whole transition to a green economy will suffer a major setback. ‘Better spending’ means that funds should be spent on actions that generate more environmental benefits and public goods, create jobs, end harmful subsidies and allow the achievement of the energy and environment targets of the ‘Europe 2020’ and ‘Climate 2050’ strategies.
The NGOs identify five sectors where the European Council can create a new ball game for the next MFF and take up these challenges:
1. Climate: The Commission proposed to spend 20% of the MFF on climate policy, an option backed by the European Parliament and “saved” by the proposal of European Council President Herman van Rompuy. Although the NGOs find that this percentage should be raised to 25% to ensure a shift to an eco-innovative economy based on renewable energy, they acknowledge that, in relative terms, climate policy, unlike biodiversity and resource efficiency, is relatively spared and at least acquires visibility.
2. Common Agricultural Policy (CAP):For the NGOs, half of total CAP funds should be allocated to rural development (Pillar 2), at least 50% of which should be earmarked for the environment. In addition, a minimum of 30% of direct payments (Pillar 1) should support a greening package for agricultural policies. The proposals by Van Rompuy not only fail to restore balance to the two pillars, but go in the opposite direction instead, regret the NGOs.
3. Cohesion policy and Connecting Europe Facility: These two policies should reduce, not increase, energy and resource consumption, with the aim of creating sustainable jobs and economic opportunities. Priority should go to investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean transport, argue the NGOs, which call for environmental safeguard mechanisms (protection of climate and biodiversity) to be implemented throughout the programming cycle. Delays in adopting the MFF should not hinder the development of quality programmes under cohesion policy, rural development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
4. LIFE (the only financial instrument for the environment): The EP has called for strengthening of the LIFE programme. A modest contribution of 1% of the EU budget would contribute to achieving the target of halting biodiversity loss by 2020.
5. External dimension: The Commission’s proposals for EU external policy are “a bare minimum,” note the NGOs. This amount cannot be cut if the EU hopes to respect its international commitments (climate biodiversity), failing which Europe’s international credibility will be jeopardised.
Institution: EU Funds