2014 was indeed an eventful year for Europe: European Parliament elections marked by euroscepticism, the start of a new European Commission, crisis in Ukraine, the non-ending economic recession accompanied by unemployment and increasing social inequality.
2014 was the year of mounting pressures and loss of environmental policies and laws in the EU: the 2030 climate and energy package; the REFIT programme of checks over the “growth potential” of important directives; the environmentally deficient new Commission’s Work Programme for 2015; the mounting business lobby pressures for relaxation of EU environmental law; the loss of vital national laws and policies on nature conservation primarily in Spain, Greece and Italy; a “tsunami” of new oil and gas operations threatens iconic ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea. This rollback is not just a “domestic” problem for Europe. Given the role that the European Union has rightly acquired as a green policy leader in international negotiations, this retreat from pioneering environmental and sustainable development acquis is an issue of global dimensions. Flickers of optimism, such as the EU’s position on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda need to be reinforced.
2014 was also a year of hope, as civil society achieved impressive public mobilisation on many environmental policy fronts: thousands signed petitions for conservation and oil-drill free zones in Italy’s Pantelleria and Spain’s Canary islands. Over 160,000 signed an Avaaz petition that was instrumental in stopping a destructive coastal bill tabled by the Greek Government, whereas the snap mobilisation of tens of thousands within just two days stopped the Parliament of Greece from voting a ridiculously destructive and legally dubious forest bill. The way towards truly sustainable and living economies was also lit by paradigmatic policies and initiatives, such as Portugal’s green tax reform and WWF Greece’s roadmap for a living economy in the crisis stricken country.
Check out our 2014 timeline for a quick roundup of a year marred by unsustainable policy responses to the crisis and brightened with remarkable civil society interventions and policy wins for living EU economies.
An eventful & inspiring 2014 is behind. A promising new year is here. Warm wishes for a happy & One Planet 2015!
Theodota Nantsou, WWF Greece, and Isabella Pratesi, WWF Italy
Read more: CrisisWatch issue 32 (December 2014)