MEPs call for new environmental framework for the EU

Voting in two resolutions last week, MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) called for the European Commission to introduce a Seventh Environmental Action Programme and for higher political priority to go to preserving and restoring damaged ecosystems.

The Seventh Environmental Action Programme (7th EAP) will be Europe’s next flagship environmental policy. The sixth EAP is due to expire in July this year. MEPs have called for the 7th EAP to mainstream climate change and other environmental objectives across all policy areas, whilst also reflecting the need for binding targets for greater energy efficiency. The EAP should also lead to an overall reduction in waste generation, along with ambitious prevention, re-use and recycling targets for waste.

In addition, MEPs have called for the 7th EAP to incorporate targets to ensure the sustainable use of land and to address emerging threats to human and animal health, such as nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors and the combined effects of chemicals in the environment. MEPs also urge Member States to implement fully and effectively existing rules on water. MEPs also used the resolution to encourage the European Commission to introduce sustainability criteria for biofuels and biomass.

MEPs sitting on the Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted on a second resolution to call for more ambitious targets to restore damaged and degraded ecosystems, whilst also highlighting the economic damage caused by biodiversity loss. The loss of biodiversity, they stated, ‘leads to devastating economic costs to society which until now have not been sufficiently integrated into economic and other policies’. Reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy, along with reforms to the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) – the EU budget from 2014-2020- are necessary to tackle this, they state.

For example, payments under the CAP should be underpinned by cross-compliance measures that contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. In addition, at least 1% of the total MFF should be devoted to environmental protection. The Common Fisheries Policy should guarantee an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

The Environment Committee calls for the target to restore at least 15% of degraded ecosystems by 2020, agreed at the UN’s 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, in 2010, to be seen only as a ‘minimum’, with the EU going beyond this to tackle environmental degradation. In addition, the MEPs call for detailed EU and national level plans to be developed to phase out all environmentally harmful subsidies by 2020.