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:
Theodota Nantsou, WWF Greece & Isabella Pratesi, WWF Italy
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.
In its original meaning of the Greek word κρίσις, a crisis is not just about a dramatic state of affairs, but also about judgment and choice. Gloom and decision are the two faces of the same coin. The current crisis is indeed leaving a heavy footprint on both nature and society. But it should also be viewed as a call for decisive action.
This past month has revealed serious challenges to the EU’s corpus of green policies and reluctance for truly sustainable ways out of the crisis. The Multi-Annual Framework for the period 2014-2020 that received its final approval by the European Parliament is in essence an environmental and social austerity budget. In the UK, David Cameron’s administration is retreating from its promise "to lead the greenest government ever" and fears grow that important nature legislation will be undermined. In Spain, the oil drilling frenzy is threatening iconic biodiversity hotspots in the Canaries. Unfortunately, this environmental rollback does not only concern the EU: the failure of the COP19 of the UN’s Climate Change Convention to substantially speed up retarded international action on climate change, coupled with the refusal of Canada and Australia to provide developing nations with financial support that will help them cope with climate change, makes it clear that the crisis is now a global excuse for no change to the dominant dirty economic paradigm.
The most accountable promise for a living future comes from civil society: environmental groups and thousands of alarmed citizens protest against policies and plans that undermine Europe’s natural treasury and demand smart and sustainable policies that will set the foundations for living economies.
We sincerely hope you find this bulletin on the environmental dimensions of the economic crisis interesting and useful to your work. Please share with us any news that you consider important.
Theodota Nantsou, WWF Greece & Isabella Pratesi, WWF Italy
Spain’s major environmental NGOs, including WWF Spain, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Ecologists in Action and SEO/Birdlife, have united under a joint campaign to halt the oil extraction plans offshore Lanzarote and Fuerteventura islands by energy giants Repsol, RWE and Woodside.
The $10 billion project is currently undergoing review by the MAGRAMA, Spain’s Agriculture, Food and Environment Ministry, following a period of public comments on the EIA. According to WWF Spain, the EIA is "plagued with omissions, vagueness and imprecision", which renders impossible a thorough review of the plan.
The contested plan threatens important habitats, protected species and landscapes. It also puts at serious risk the tourism economy of one of the world’s most important visitor destinations.
The coalition has launched an international petition calling for an end to the oil plans in the Canaries: http://savecanarias.org/
Since the wake of the economic crisis, debt ridden states are promoting heavy footprint investments in resource extraction as the spearhead of their economic recovery strategies. Iconic and ecologically sensitive areas in the Mediterranean are at serious risk, due to oil and gas projects in Spain, Italy and Greece. Particularly at risk are the Canary Islands, Pantelleria in Sicily and the area of the Hellenic Trench, extending from Southern Crete to the Ionian Sea.
A recent Flash Eurobarometer survey on the "Attitudes towards biodiversity" may offer a clear message that the majority of EU citizens do not favour measures that undermine the conservation of Europe’s natural treasury.
According to the Flash Eurobarometer 379, which was published earlier in November, "[r]oughly three quarters of Europeans totally agree that the EU should better inform citizens about the importance of biodiversity (72%). Approximately two thirds of Europeans totally agree that the EU should increase the areas where nature is protected in Europe (65%). Around six in ten Europeans totally agree that the EU should ensure that subsidies to sectors like agriculture and fisheries also take account of biodiversity (63%), that the EU should promote research on the impact of biodiversity loss (59%), or that the EU should allocate more financial resources to nature protection in Europe (59%). More than half of Europeans (54%) also totally agree that the EU should create financial rewards for farmers of fishermen for nature conservation."
The survey also records a slight increase, compared to 2010, in the belief that damage to protected areas is acceptable because economic development is more important. This percentage however remains low: 9% in 2013 and 6% in 2010.
It is important to note that respondents from crisis-hit member states appear more concerned about biodiversity loss: in Spain, 56% state that economic development should not result in damage or destruction of protected areas, compared to a 45% EU-27 average. In Portugal, response to the same question was 58%, in Greece 54% and 52% in Bulgaria.
It is also important to note that compared to a 59% EU-27 average, a stark majority of respondents from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria state they totally agree that Europe should allocate more financial resources to nature protection in Europe: 85% in Romania, 82% in Greece, 79% in Bulgaria, 74% in Portugal, 68% in Spain, 63% in Italy. These six member states host important biodiversity treasures and almost half of Europe’s Natura 2000 network. As reported in WWF’s Crisis Watch, since the beginning of the economic crisis, nature in these countries has been undergoing unprecedented pressures for unsustainable development, primarily for large constructions, mining and fossil fuel extraction.
The commission established by the Romanian Parliament with the mandate to review the investment of Gabriel Resources Ltd in the region of Rosia Montana, rejected the giant gold mining plan with 17 votes against and two abstentions. Although it is anticipated that a new law will be submitted to the Parliament, given the Government’s firm decision to proceed with the approval of the investment, this is indeed a landmark decision, following mass public rallies and demonstrations in the country’s major cities.
According to the Greek Public Power Corporation (PPC), more than 350,000 consumers every year have their electricity cut off over unpaid bills. 60% of the power cuts concern households. 140,000 of these remain disconnected as they cannot afford to pay the bills, while illegal reconnections amount to 35,000 p.a. Comparing to pre-crisis figures (i.e. 2008), this signals a more than 100% increase in power cuts.
Increasing consumer inability to pay electricity bills has resulted in a total of €1,3 billion debt to the PPC, while the share of only two high voltage consumers (aluminum and metallurgical companies) amounts to 30% of this debt.
In Spain, the regional government in Andalusia takes measures to relieve struggling households by promoting a plan, under which €20 million will be directed to covering electricity and water bills for low or zero income citizens.
In the UK, soaring energy costs have attracted media attention and have sparked a political row. The country’s "big six" energy companies have been asked by a group of MP’s to justify profits. Recent price rises have been attributed by the companies to ‘green levies’ that affect the wholesale prices of energy. The UK’s Office for National Statistics has reported that during the last decade the proportion of household income accounted for by essentials has risen from 19.9% to 27.3% (2003-2013).
Despite a slight increase, Europe is headed for another weak quarter for clean energy investments, Bloomberg reports, as spending totaled a $10BN, 40% lower than the 2012 Q3 figures. The second quarter of 2013 had seen investments drop to the lowest in more than six years, mainly as a result of cuts in subsidies and retroactive measures, in countries like Germany, Spain and Greece.
Global investments in renewables also fell by 14%, compared to the previous quarter. The underlying reasons are, among others, cheaper natural gas in the U.S. and a reduction in wind power spending in China.
On a brighter side of market developments, analysts at IHS foresee an improvement in the outlook for worldwide PV capital spending in 2014, while UK, Italy and France are determined to drive Europe’s PV recovery after an 18-month downturn, according to research firm NPD Solarbuzz.
Analysis of sources: Michalis Prodromou, Climate & Energy Policy Officer, WWF Greece
The final approval of the EU’s Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) marks a social and environmental austerity for the period 2014-2020.
According to WWF, through the new septennial Budget "most EU expenditure will continue current programmes with a negative environmental impact while environmental-friendly programmes such as LIFE or the Agri Environmental measures are seriously under resourced given their contributions to improving environmental quality".
As reported in WWF’s Crisis Watch 17, in comparison to the MFF 2007-2013, top "losers" are the policies housed under heading 2 "Preservation and Management of Natural Resources", i.e. nature conservation, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy. Particularly as regards the new CAP, the MFF 2014-2020 will continue the highly controversial and damaging direct payments system. According to WWF, this is a scandalous policy, which rewards farming practices that destroy the environment and provide scant long-term social benefit.
A last-minute addition to the MFF is the "macro-economic conditionality", which stipulates the suspension of EU structural funds to member states that fail to comply with the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact. In practice, this would mean that important support for crucial environmental and social policies would be denied to the states lagging behind in development that depend greatly on this support.
According to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, the UK’s famed policy of green belts that control urban sprawl will be questioned and revised, in response to the need for development. Secretary Paterson stated to the BBC’s Radio Four, in November, that: "[o]ur planning reforms are clear – that we want to see sustainable growth, but we are clear that we cannot freeze the country in aspic".
This statement coincides with the announcement of the "Nature Check 2013", an annual review of the UK Government’s environmental performance. The Nature Check is championed by 41 leading environmental NGOs, including WWF UK, Greenpeace, RSPB, Friends of the Earth, the Wildlife Trusts, Marine Life and IFAW. The report highlights major environmental policy shortfalls by the Government of David Cameron.
According to the NGOs: "the Government's delivery for the natural environment over the last year has remained static - there has been no step change in leadership or delivery.
We know that nature is in crisis. The evidence shows us long and short-term declines in our wildlife and natural places, which translates into a crisis for people too, because the environment is the foundation of our lives and livelihoods. It is a source of great joy and fulfilment for many millions of people across the country, and we must therefore work together to conserve the environment for future generations, secure a sustainable economy and meet our international commitments."
At the launch event of Nature Check 2013, Secretary Paterson defended the Government’s policies and remarked that he remains "convinced that we can only improve the environment if we have a growing, prosperous economy. In China and a host of other countries, where per capita income is increasing as a result of continuous economic growth, people are taking an interest in their environment for the first time, resulting in more trees being planted."
For more information, please contact Theodota Nantsou, Head of Policy, WWF Greece, firstname.lastname@example.org, +30 6940527556