As the signs of economic recovery in the EU remain frail and uncertain, pressures for more lenient environmental laws threaten to seriously undermine Europe’s long-standing and globally significant green policy outlook. The shrinking of the EU’s environmental agenda has marred the start of the Juncker Commission and signals an agenda of regression and deregulation at a historic moment, when Europe needs to urgently move towards sustainable and resilient economic recovery, based on innovation, resource efficiency and adaptation to climate change.
Yet, why should the world care about environmental regression in Europe?
The shift towards one-planet living economies needs champions. Champions who promise to show the international community that development, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability can and need to go together, in reality and not just in rhetoric. Europe has always been a green champion for the world: either in the context of international negotiations or at the domestic level, European policies and laws constitute a valuable environmental acquis that needs to be safeguarded, expanded and serve as paradigm across the globe.
Remember Commission President Barroso when in 2007 he affirmed that “[w]e can say to the rest of the world, Europe is taking the lead, you should join us in fighting climate change”? Well, time flies and so does the EU’s global green leadership. A November 2013 editorial in India’s Economic Times, during the Warsaw UNFCCC summit on climate change, speaks for itself: “The new global regime, which should be in place by 2015, would require developing countries like India and China to set out their plans for the post-2020 period. The real question, however, is how can developing countries be asked to step up their efforts when industrialised countries are backing off from their commitments”. The EU’s retreat from its pioneering environmental and sustainable development acquis is an issue of global dimensions.
Sinking into a growth-as-usual economic model cannot get Europe out of the current depression; it can only open the way for an even deeper global crisis: ecological, social and economic.
Theodota Nantsou, WWF Greece, and Isabella Pratesi, WWF Italy
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