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, stresses WWF ahead of the Informal Meeting of the European Council gathering in Brussels on 23 May.
In an open letter addressed to Europe’s Heads of State and Government, the European Council and the European Commission, WWF urges European leaders to make the right decisions for sustainable economic reforms and stimulus packages and respond to the economic crisis as an opportunity for a major shift towards sustainable pathways.
The structural adjustment policies that form the austerity package imposed on Greece are having negative environmental consequences. But the economic crisis is no longer restricted to Greece. The rollback of environmental policies and sustainable development is now affecting other EU countries, such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland.
WWF highlights that “The crisis must be viewed as more than merely fiscal. It reflects a deficient economic model grounded in an overleveraged banking system and mismanaged national finances and natural resources. It is a system built on a paradigm of unlimited growth and resource overexploitation and overconsumption, which has resulted in an increasing ecological deficit. Currently implemented policies exacerbate this ecological deficit, worsening longer-term environmental remediation costs. This puts in question Europe’s commitment to an agenda of resource efficiency, eco-innovation and sustainability.”
“A knee-jerk return back to current and unsustainable growth models should be avoided at all costs. Nature is wealth. It provides Europe with jobs, food, water, clothing and energy. Europe’s and the world’s natural wealth must be protected to prevent an even more dire future economic collapse”, said Tony Long, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office.
WWF’s letter identifies the following policy priorities and calls on all European states, the European Commission and the European Parliament to commit to:
1. The development of new economic principles in a time of scarcity, such as the internalisation of externally imposed environmental costs, and the development of environmental and social wellbeing indicators, as the basis of policy formation and decision-making;
2. Investment and development policies that also support Europe’s natural wealth;
3. Sustainable development targets and indicators included in the economic adjustment programmes agreed with economically troubled states such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal;
4. An end to environmentally harmful subsidies and redirecting these funds towards sustainable development and investments that have high sustainability ratings;
5. Cutting public spending on high carbon infrastructure;
6. Reaffirming the importance of the environmental assessment procedures and legislation, which are vital in ensuring the sustainability of development projects;
7. Strengthening the EU ETS System by tightening the EU Emission reduction target and an Energy Efficiency Directive that ensures 20 percent savings of energy usage.
8. Reorienting the EU Budget away from unsustainable policies and towards green policies.
Please read WWF's letter: http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/wwf_letter_eco_crisis_april2012_final.pdf