The rise of euroscepticism, the growing power of parties with a weak environmental outlook, the low election turnout and the political focus of elections campaigns on rapid growth at all costs cause concerns about the future of the EU as a progressive environmental policy maker. The European Parliament in particular has on many occasions stood firm in support of crucial improvements in environmental law. One of the latest such examples was the new EIA Directive 2014/52/EU: the majority of MEPs supported the need for inclusion of shale gas projects under the scope of the directive, notwithstanding the fierce backstage opposition by dirty energy giants, the industry lobby and a group of pro-fracking governments led by the UK. The final outcome however, product of multiple rounds of negotiations between the Parliament and the Commission pushing for EIA-free fracking operations is exactly what the new lawmakers of the EU should resist: compromising environmental policy progress on the altar of short-term and short-sighted economic gains.
The environment has long been a rather popular field of policy-making for the EU. Opinion polls, even in the midst of the crisis, continue to show that a clear majority of Europe’s people favour strong environmental laws and green economic policies. As Tony Long aptly wrote: “Turning around voter antipathy to Europe will not be easy but at least if the opinion polls are to be believed, the environment is one of the last vestiges of Europe that is still popular and fairly close to people’s interests. … ¶…People care about the water they drink, the air they breathe, the food they eat and the nature that surrounds them. This is not environment as a middle class luxury. This is environment as a statement about values, and security and personal health. … ¶ … These are the kinds of policies and politicians we need to create a new positive story from Brussels. A story that sees environment and people again as the main protagonists. A new Europe for the planet is the prize.”
We sincerely hope you find this bulletin on the environmental dimensions of the crisis interesting and useful to your work.