Paris appeal for green economic revival in the EU (November 2012)
Chief Executives from all 17 of WWF’s European National and Programme Offices have issued a joint appeal to European leaders for the creation of a truly sustainable European Economy.
WWF calls for green way out of economic crisis (May 2013)
An environmentally and socially sustainable exit from the current financial crisis, in order to preserve the natural capital that underpins successful economic activity; is urgently needed, stressed WWF ahead of the Informal Meeting of the European Council gathering in Brussels on 23 May.
WWF addresses IMF and EC on environmental impact of bailout plans (January 2012)
In letters addressed to International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, WWF stressed the urgent need for sustainable solutions to the ongoing global financial crisis, to preserve the natural capital that underpins successful economic activity.
Letters to IMF and EC
Reply by European Commission
WWF's CrisisWatch monitors the environmental dimensions of the ongoing economic crisis and the associated policies, focusing primarily on Europe. As however WWF is a solutions-oriented conservation organisation, the heart of its work is the development of proposals for sustainable policies. We therefore urge you to also read WWF's proposals for a sustainable way out of the crisis at the websites of WWF International and WWF European Policy Office.
This month's developments, in titles, are the following:
The CrisisWatch team
WWF’s monthly bulletin highlighting important information
on the environmental dimensions
of the economic crisis in the EU.
As a solutions-oriented conservation organisation, WWF’s focus is on the development of proposals for sustainable policies. Our most important interventions for a green way out of the crisis are the following.
For more information, please contact:
Theodota Nantsou, Policy Coordinator,
WWF Greece, +30 6982471722
According to a draft report from the European Commission’s Task Force for Greece (TFGR), Greece is strongly advised to proceed with sweeping legalisation of illegal buildings and land uses, regardless of how these were created and their environmental impact.
The document, which summarises the views expressed by the TFGR in a technical meeting with the services of the Cadastre, was described in media reports as support to the Government’s policy for an endless legalisation process for unauthorised land developments at the low cost of a one-off financial penalty.
In a letter addressed to the TFGR’s Head Horst Reichenbach by WWF Greece’s Director Demetres Karavellas, the conservation organisation calls on the Commission’s Task Force to respect the EU’s founding principles and to assist Greece in restoring a just state and promoting sustainable solutions to illegal land development.
In the letter, WWF Greece states that the unconditional legalisation of prohibited land uses
The TFGR was established in 2011 as an ad hoc team of experts “supporting the Greek administration in identifying and providing technical assistance for the country's reform process”. Its head reports to EC President Manuel Jose Barroso.
Undermining nature conservation legislation in times of a global crisis is contagious even to countries that remain unaffected by the economic downturn.
The draft law on biodiversity conservation which was prepared by the Turkish Government in 2003 within the context of a GEF supported project, recently re-surfaced. However, the new version of the “Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Law” is far from the aim its title declares. In fact, the draft law opens every protected area in Turkey – including threatened habitats – to development which would have disastrous consequences for the country’s globally important natural treasures.
Conservation NGOs have organised protests, together with health, education and human rights groups. Protesters demand from local and regional authorities not to consent to the draft law. A coalition of 106 NGOs formed the “Nature Law Watch Initiative”, which informs the national and international media and environmental activist groups on the progress of the draft law. An international petition, also posted at the “change.org” online petition platform, has thus far been signed by 50,000 people calling the Turkish Government for legislation that truly protects the country’s natural heritage.
At present, the parliamentary process is pending and NGOs, such as WWF Turkey, are scaling up their lobbying and campaigning efforts, in order to achieve vital improvements in the draft law.
The European Commission’s proposal for a two-year suspension on neonicotinoid insecticides reached no qualified majority during the March 15th vote at a Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health : despite the fact that 13 member states voted in favour, 9 voted against and 5 abstained.
According to the European Food and Safety Authority, which in January 2013 concluded a project to assess bee surveillance systems in the EU and to analyse data and research related to honey bee mortality across Europe:
“Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides with a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, causing paralysis and death. A number of recent studies have suggested that exposure to neonicotinoids at sub-lethal doses can have significant negative effects on bee health and bee colonies.”
Although the Commission’s proposal was supported by France, Italy and Spain, abstentions from the UK and Germany did not allow for a qualified majority in favour of the ban. The nine member states that voted against the ban (Slovakia, Romania, Czech Republic, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Lithuania, Ireland and Greece) sided with the argumentation of the agrochemicals industry, which raised issues of potential job loss, reduced yields and impacts on economic growth.
Shocked by the outcome, environmental groups criticise the lack of the necessary political leadership that will safeguard the true interests of Europe. According to a statement by Greenpeace UK:
“On one side you have the environmental organisations such as ourselves and Friends of the Earth, the European Food Safety Authority, parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, and the governments of most EU nations. We’re relying on a large number of peer-reviewed scientific studies showing that neonicatinoids harm bees.
On the other (not altogether surprisingly), you have the pesticide manufacturers Syngenta and Bayer. They’re relying on their own studies which allegedly show neonicotinoids to be safe. Although they can’t show us these studies as they are, of course, commercially confidential. Defra commissioned a field trial which seems to have been intended to support neonicotinoid safety, but unfortunately their trial site was so contaminated by neonicotinoids that there was no effective control group, undermining the trial.”
The European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, announced that the Commission will refer its proposal for a ban on neonicotinoid insecticides to the Appeal Committee, stating that “the health of our bees is of paramount importance – we have a duty to take proportionate yet decisive action to protect them wherever appropriate”.
As the global economic crisis has saddled the EU’ Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) with a crushing oversupply of emissions credits and historically low prices, the European Parliament rejected the Commission’s proposal to offer a much needed bail out to its carbon market.
The ETS, originally established as “a cornerstone of the European Union's policy to combat climate change and its key tool for reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively”, has been in critical condition, due to a massive imbalance between supply and demand for carbon credits.
The so-called “backloading” proposal submitted by the European Commission to the European Parliament for approval in November 2012, supported the postponement of the auctioning of 900 million allowances of greenhouse gas emissions in 2013-2020. This was a vital measure for the restoration of the emissions trading market in balance, since the past two years have seen a rapid build-up of allowances, proving beyond doubt that the cap on emissions was consistently set at high levels, in order to serve a business-as-usual industrial activity.
As shown in a number of reports compiled by the NGO Sandbag regarding the implementation of the ETS in EU member states, the free overallocation by governments of emissions allowances to selected industrial giants has led them to accruing large surpluses in emissions credits. This has provided Europe’s major climate polluting industries with an important source of income, as they are allowed to either keep for future use or sell the free surplus credits. According to Sandbag and WWF Germany, industrial giants ArcelorMittal and ThyssenKrupp have made an important profit by selling surplus credits. It also serves as a major disincentive towards stepping up on innovation they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
In a 16 April narrow vote of 334 against versus 315 in favour, the European Parliament rejected the Commission’s proposal for backloading of excess emissions allowances and, in practice, approved a business-as-usual scenario, which would continue to offer a “free ride” to the EU’s carbon-intensive industry.
The Commission's proposal for a “Green Paper – A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies”, which will be in public consultation until July, received a mixed reception, with some MEPs saying that it lacks ambition.
Electricity industries, such as the associations Eurogas and Eurelectric, insist that the paper lacks specific targets and coherent measures. Renewable energy associations, such as wind EWEA and solar EPIA, call for targets on renewables. They also note that energy efficiency is almost absent from the paper. Several MEPs also raised concerns, whereas NGOs, such as WWF and Greenpeace called for clear and binding targets.
“The history of EU policy is littered with the corpses of voluntary targets that died of neglect. ......
Remarkably, this paper overlooks what we’ve learned about the reason these policies exist: the ever-increasing evidence of the rapidity of climate change”, says Anderson. ‘Unless we avert dangerous global warming, all other goals – economic, social, and environmental – will fail. Competitiveness, social welfare and climate protection are not tradeoffs: not only can we deliver them all, we must”, stated Jason Anderson, Head of Climate and Policy at WWF’s European Policy Office.
In numerous dynamic protests in many cities of Romania, one of the poorest EU member states, thousands of citizens voiced a strong “no” to the plans of Chevron to drill for shale gas (CrisisWatch12).
After winning a majority vote of confidence at the Parliament in December 2012, the government of Victor Ponta softened its pre-election position against hydraulic fracturing for shale gas (fracking) and decided to end the moratorium that had been voted by the previous Parliament. This opens the way for Chevron’s drilling operations in three areas.
Many European states turn to hydrocarbon exploration as the black gold bonanza that will take them out of dismal setting of the economic crisis. Fracking for shale gas, a technology involving many serious environmental risks, such as groundwater toxic contamination and methane leakage from the wells, attracts the interest of investors as it allegedly promises access to gas reserves that would otherwise remain beyond reach.
The decision of 11 member states to launch a tax on financial transactions through enhanced cooperation is facing serious pressure both from “inside” and from “outside”. Italy, a member of the 11 states participating in the FTT enhanced cooperation process, expresses fears for short-term negative impacts on sovereign bonds.
The UK, supported by Luxembourg, is launching legal action at the European Court of Justice against the January 22nd decision of the European Council. Despite the fact that the UK has remained a strong opponent of the measure and does not participate in the enhanced cooperation process, the government of David Cameron claims that UK firms and financial services trading in states where the FTT applies will be impacted.
According to a coalition of social and environmental NGOs that has been lobbying for the establishment of an EU-wide FTT, “FTTs are one of the few available options that could generate financial resources in sufficient quantity to make a meaningful contribution to the continuing costs of the global economic crisis. This would ensure the currently under-taxed financial sector pay a greater and fairer share of the costs that their actions caused. Importantly, the FTT would also help to regulate markets, curbing speculative market behavior and short-termism, and instead encourage more sustainable and equitable long-term economic growth”.
The countries participating in the enhanced cooperation process are: Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
According to a 2011 Eurobarometer survey, 65% of EU citizens are in favour of FTT.
According to 2011 data published by Eurostat on waste management, the volume of material recycling in crisis-hit EU member states has dropped to pre-2009 levels (figures shown in table below). An overall reduction in per capita waste generation is also evident in the data published by Eurostat, as a result of reduced consumption.
Table: Volume of material recycling (in kg per capita)
Apart from reduced consumption, unauthorised removal of discarded material from the special recycling bins appears to be a problem of increasing significance, since it threatens to undermine the economic viability of recycling companies. Both in Portugal and in Greece, organised scavenging on recycling bins, primarily for scrap metals and paper, has increased sharply since 2010.
In Portugal, municipalities are starting door-to-door collection schemes, which is expected to increase the volumes and quality of recycled materials.
green reporting facing a hostile business environment? | The Haaretz (13 March 2013)
“It can be said that global media coverage of environmental topics entered into a decline just at the time that they were really coming into their own. Even as such reporting is continually shrinking and even disappearing because of the general crisis in journalism, its level of professionalism is increasing as it delves into greater depth on environmental issues to include their socioeconomic aspects. Because of these circumstances, green journalism in some instances is forced to make compromises and adjustments that challenge journalistic ethics.”
in "denial" that sick economy costs lives, health experts
Reuters (17 March 2013)
“Europe's financial crisis is costing lives, with suicides and infectious diseases on the rise, yet politicians are not addressing the problem, health experts said on Wednesday.”
energy losing its shine in Europe; Debt crisis makes it harder to
justify - or afford - subsidies|
Electric Light & Power (22 March 2013)
“The cost of trying to change the climate has become too much to bear for other European nations mired in debt or hobbled by overspending.
As austerity measures take hold from Spain to the Netherlands, governments have been rushing to cut the subsidies for green energy they once eagerly waved through to help the infant sectors grow.”
falters with UN targets as development aid drops 4.3%| Euractiv (4 April 2013)
“Brussels has called on member states to honour their aid commitments as their contributions to the world’s poorest countries fell by €2.3 billion in 2012, according to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report published yesterday (3 April).
This was the second consecutive yearly drop in overseas aid, sparking fears that the EU may fail to meet its 2015 United Nations commitment of allocating 0.7% gross national income (GNI) to aid.”
has hit companies’ social responsibility, poll suggests|
Euractiv (5 April 2013)
“Many Europeans appear to have lost trust in the corporate world, with a significant proportion believing that companies are paying less attention to their impact on society and the environment than they were 10 years ago, says a Eurobarometer poll.”
bubble will plunge the world into another financial crisis –
The Guardian (13 April 2013).
“The world could be heading for a major economic crisis as stock markets inflate an investment bubble in fossil fuels to the tune of trillions of dollars, according to leading economists.”
Nature, No Business: The Costs of Climate Change & the Financial
Amy Larkin | CSR wire (15 April 2013)
“No Nature, No Business is the underlying assumption that must guide all financial regulations and international climate treaty negotiations. I can imagine buy-in actually coming from a majority of both the world’s businesses and governments as a new level playing field is built.”
Faces a Crisis in Energy Costs|
The New York Times (17 April 2013)
“The signs are everywhere. Britain has been unable to reach a deal for its first new nuclear power station since the 1990s. Spain, once a clean-energy enthusiast, has slashed its backing for wind and solar power. Even the European Union’s flagship environmental achievement of recent years, its Emissions Trading System for carbon dioxide, is beset by existential doubts. On Tuesday, the European Parliament batted away an effort to bolster anemic carbon prices on the E.T.S.”
ministries take steps to rationalize spending|
Al-Shorfa.com (17 April 2013)
“Several Egyptian ministries have introduced initiatives to rationalise public spending and reduce the burden on the state treasury.
The Ministry of Environment's financial, administrative, and services departments, as well as its regional branches and environmental protection agency, started preparing for the new measures following the decision, executive director of the ministry's Environmental Affairs Agency, Fatima Abu al-Shok, said.”
climate chief says EU CO2 crisis will not hurt domestic plans|
Reuters (18 April 2013)
“The crisis facing the European carbon market will not deter China from plans to establish its own emissions trading platform or its other climate pledges, the senior official responsible for climate change said on Thursday.”
money, money – the growth in the power of finance around the world|
The Yorkshire Post (18 April 2013)
“Six years since it erupted, the global financial crisis still casts a long shadow over Europe. The need to understand how to make finance serve our economic, social and environmental needs has never been so important.”
governments get cold feet on transactions tax|
(22 April 2013)
“One EU source told this website: “There’s still very little clarity on the proposal and so many unanswered questions. Member states do not know how the FTT will actually work nor do they have answers about the impacts. That 11 countries came together to table six long pages of questions … just shows how much uncertainty there is over the [European] commission’s FTT proposal.”
to stimulating green markets, but not without safeguards| Europolitics
(22 April 2013)
“But the crisis has made its mark and most member states have nuanced their position – in other words they have taken a step back – and, above all, are warning against any negative “collateral” effects. Namely, for the majority of member states it is out of the question that these new reference standards should in any way increase the red tape for companies and organisations and for them to incur an extra cost in the midst of an economic crisis. The member states also stressed the need to protect small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).”
For more information, please contact Theodota Nantsou, Policy Coordinator, WWF Greece, email@example.com, +30 6982471722