A year in #NatureAlert & hope for our living planet

Recounting a year full of political heartbreaks, environmental and humanitarian threats, hopes and action, is quite a challenging task. As Europe’s economy shows little political hope for sustainable recovery, one would reasonably expect a rise in environmental pressures, widespread concern and fear for the future, even anger at the lack of leadership for a restart towards a stronger and better Europe. 

The ease with which demagogic rhetoric gains political ground is proof of the void left by the traditional political parties and their inability to address the unprecedented challenges of our times. Europe’s inefficient response to the humanitarian refugee crisis, the continued austerity recipe to the never-ending economic crisis, and the EU’s reluctance to uphold and honour its own global leadership in forward-looking green policies are indeed factors that contribute to public discontent.


Greece’s forests threatened under new austerity law

LATEST: In response to the political outcry caused by the exception of illegal housing agglomerations from the forest maps, Alternate Environment Minister Yiannis Tsironis submited to Parliament a legal rephrasing that clearly does not allow the declassification of illegally built forests and woodlands.


Brexit? UK's conservation groups assess environmental impact

As the Referendum of 23 June on the future of Britain's EU membership is nearing, Britain's leadeing conservation NGOs informed the political dialogue with a much needed environmental impact assessment of the pros and cons of each vote. On March 8, WWF UK, RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts issued the report "The potential policy and environmental consequences for the UK of a departure from the European Union".

The report has concluded that "on balance, Britain’s membership of the EU has delivered benefits for our environment – such as reduced air and water pollution, reduced carbon emissions, increased recycling, clean beaches and protected areas for rare species and habitats - that would be hard to replicate in the event of the UK leaving. The report also goes on to highlight the risks and uncertainty associated with likely exit scenarios."


EU's top Court rejects right to free climate changing emissions

In a landmark decision, the EU Court of Justice ruled that the free carbon emissions allownaces handed to carbon intensive industries were too much. Jointly judging six cases referred by national courts for preliminary rulings, the CJEU declared invalid the maximum annual amount of free allowances for greenhouse gas emissions determined by the Commission for the period 2013-2020.


OECD: Strict green laws do not harm export economies

Rapid economic growth at all costs being the dominant political mantra since the beginning of the crisis, EU environmental legislation has been the target of unrelenting pressures for easing, on allegations that it prevents businesses from growing and thus hampers economic recovery. A recent study by the OECD however adds evidence to the opposite conclusion: strict environmental regulations and policies do not harm export competitiveness. This conclusion is consistent with the findings of previous OECD studies, which prove that a stringent regulatory framework for the protection of the environment has no negative impact on productivity – instead, they can work together.

According to the working paper, “Environmental policies are not found to be a major driver of international trade patterns, but have some significant effects on specialisation. More stringent domestic policies have no significant effect on overall trade in manufactured goods, but are linked to a comparative disadvantage in "dirty" industries, and a corresponding advantage in "cleaner" industries. The effects are stronger for the domestic component of exports than for gross exports, yet notably smaller than the effects of e.g. trade liberalisation.”


UK needs a greener Budget to face high cost of environmental loss

The Budget must work harder to tackle the growing risks from environmental degradation, natural resource scarcity and climate change if the UK is to enjoy resilient economic growth in the future, states WWF-UK in its recent report. Unless the Government act soon, the consequences for Britain’s prosperity are likely to be costly in the long-term.

In its new 2016 report ‘A Greener Budget: choices for a prosperous future’, WWF-UK sets out a suite of practical policy recommendations that the Treasury could implement through the 2016 Budget to help tackle these risks and put the UK on a more sustainable and resilient economic footing.


It's the One Planet Economy stupid!

The United Nations now promotes a full agenda for the greening of the world’s economies, side by side with the Sustainable Development Goals, while at the same time many governments around the globe seek to green their development pathways. Yet, the European Union seems to ignore the green signs of our times.

Since January 2012, when the first issue of CrisisWatch was published, WWF has consistently monitored the serious impacts caused on environment and society by Europe’s myopic response to the ongoing economic crisis. We have also had the privilege to report on promising developments, in the direction of more sustainable economic activity.

Deeply immersed in the dismal economic outlook and the humanitarian crisis sparked by the arrival of thousands of refugees seeking a safe life, Europe is losing speed in the race to the green champion’s podium. The pressures for environmental deregulation, both at the level of member states and in the broader EU context, seem to gain disproportionate weight as rapid growth at all costs is the dominant political mantra in these difficult times.

When politicians fail however, people have the power. The dynamic and loud public mobilisations in favour of a good climate deal in Paris, a resource-efficient economy and in defense of important environmental policies, such as the EU’s nature protection laws, have been remarkably effective.

The solution to the planet’s crisis and to all of Europe’s problems is political and needs to aim for a world of social and environmental justice, transparent policy-making and ecologically sustainable economies

Theodota Nantsou




Bulgarian government settles illegal buildings on protected mountain

In a draft amendment of the concession contract for Bansko Ski Zone in UNESCO’s Pirin National Park, on 19 February Bulgaria's Development Council called the Council of Ministers to legalize the violations of the concessionaire, ULEN AD. 

The amendment would basically allow a tenfold increase in the concession area -- from ​​99 ha to 1,069 ha. This would legalize massive illegal constructions on a territory 60% bigger than the current concession, as well as allow construction on further territories of the national park.  

Economic crisis undermines capacity to fight environmental crime

Environmental law enforcement being the responsibility of states, the financial crisis has further weakened certain national authorities in their fight against environmental crime.

According to a February 2016 policy brief issued by the EFFACE (European Union Action to Fight Environmental Crime):

One overarching challenge is that the implementation of environmental law is a responsibility that is left up to the individual MS. The EU itself does not have the authority to enforce the provisions outlined in the EU’s legal framework and tools. As a result, the operation of enforcement institutions at the MS level varies and is uneven across the EU. Some MS have special investigative units while others have no environmental crime specialization. Evidence shows that many environmental crimes are not investigated or prosecuted by enforcement institutions for reasons of limited awareness, lack of resources and expertise, and complexity of establishing causality of environmental crime. The lack of financial resources is identified as a significant weakness or barrier to enforcement; this situation has become exacerbated in the recent financial crisis, at least in some MS”.


WWF maps “blue Gold Rush” in the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean region is currently facing impressive growth, a real “blue Gold Rush”, which has gained speed during the ongoing economic crisis. Without a long-term vision for sustainable development, the Mediterranean Sea will not be able to sustain the region’s economies and human wellbeing.


MedTrends, an analysis recently published by WWF on the development trends in the Mediterranean, provides the first integrated picture of 10 key economic maritime activities in Croatia, Cyprus, France, Italy, Greece, Malta, Slovenia, and Spain. With a view to 2030, MedTrends illustrates and maps the current status, future development trends and the environmental impacts (to 2030) of maritime transport, tourism, oil and gas, aquaculture, fisheries, mining, coastal development, renewable energy, and land-based pollution.

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