Political tide turning in support of EU nature directives

Nine EU member states have officially expressed their opposition to the European Commission’s move to subject the directives on habitats (92/32/EEC) and wild birds (2009/147/EC) to a “fitness check” under its REFIT initiative: Croatia, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.

In their joint letter, the nine environment ministers state that: “There is now legal certainty as a result of well advanced implementation. Those affected have learned how to deal with the directives’ provisions. Any amendment would require the allocation of personnel and financial resources for a period of many years, meaning that these resources would no longer be available for the much more important process of implementing the nature conservation directives. The result would be new legal uncertainty. We therefore all agree that the directives should retain their current form.”

On a parallel track, members of the European Parliament representing the seven largest political groups co-signed a letter urging First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella to keep the Habitats and Birds Directives in their current form and focus on better implementation. The MEPs who signed the letter are the rapporteur Mark Demesmaeker (BE/ECR)  and shadow rapporteurs Norbert Lins (DE/EPP), Karin Kadenbach (AT/S&D), Catherine Bearder (UK/ALDE), Margrete Auken (DK/ Greens/EFA), Marco Affronte (IT/EFDD) and Lynn Boylan (IE/GUE-NGL) on the European Parliament’s Own-Initiative Report on the Mid-Term Review of the Biodiversity Strategy towards 2020.

Commenting on this historic development for nature conservation in the EU, Geneviève Pons-Deladrière, Director of WWF European Policy Office said: “We expect more EU governments to join this call and put a stop to any attempt to change a legal instrument that has proven to work when properly implemented and financed.
We urge the European Commission to use this momentum and deliver on their commitment to halt the loss of nature. They should maintain the current laws and ensure their effective implementation, as well as tackle the main problems, such as unsustainable agriculture and changes to natural waterbodies, which are causing the damage.

In May 2015, WWF, BirdLife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau and Friends of the Earth Europe launched the “Nature Alert” campaign in response to the European Commission’s evaluation which assesses whether the existing EU nature laws should be changed. The campaign makes the case for improved implementation and enforcement of existing rules set out by the laws - known as the Birds and Habitats Directives. During the summer, over 520,000 people participated in the European Commission’s public consultation and called on politicians to save Europe’s nature laws: by far the highest number of responses ever reached in the history of the EU.

Read more: WWF EU, Birdlife


People’s protests and falling oil & gas prices drive fracking out of Romania

The Romanian Government’s oil & gas fever will likely cool down after Chevron’s announcement that it intends to terminate its operations in the country. Following widespread protests and triggered by the falling prices and unsatisfactory exploration results, the US based energy giant

Following a recent announcement by Chevron about its decision to quit shale-exploration in Poland “[t]hat leaves Romania, where we are in the process of relinquishing our concession interests,” a Chevron spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.

Since the wake of the economic crisis, cash strapped states promote oil and gas as the spearhead of their economic recovery strategies. Romania has invested great political hopes in gas and gold extraction, prospects that have caused angry reactions and protests at both the local and the national level.

Read more: The Wall Street Journal



Commission recommends path to greener tax policies

Fixed in its original orientation towards economic growth, the Commission called on member states to promote greener tax policies through its European Semester cycle of economic policy coordination: “Environmental taxes remain underdeveloped in many Member States and their revenues in percentage of GDP declined during the period 1999-2008, despite efforts to move to a greener society. Revenues have however increased in 2009 2010 and 2011. There is potential to raise revenue through tax increases as well as through reducing tax expenditure in environmental taxation. 

Generally, environmentally-friendly taxation would also greatly benefit from the adoption by Member States of the revised Energy Taxation Directive (ETD), which aims to restructure the way in which energy is taxed to support the objective of moving to a low-carbon and energy-efficient economy, and to avoid problems for the Internal Market.



Media-Web, April 2014

Why Economists Can No Longer Ignore Environmental Issues | Economy Watch (29 April 2014).

How many Superstorm Sandys will it take? By how much does the sea level have to rise? How many severe droughts and floods (and where) will it take before we come to the realisation that ignoring natural capital and its many externalities is simply bad economics?

The difference between the financial and environmental crisis is that we actually do have a good body of work that incorporates natural capital in models of growth. The problem is that it has remained to a large extent the restricted domain of environmental economists. The vast majority of us were able to get degrees in economics without ever reading a single paper on environmental economics or encountering natural capital as an argument in the production functions we studied. We did hear about Pigouvian taxes of course – and so figured the problem had been solved…

- Romania will not exploit shale gas in next five years, but it needs to be energy independent from Russia| (25 April 2014)

Romania will not exploit shale gas in the next five years, but it is important that the country manages to secure energy independence, as well as for the Republic of Moldova, via domestic production, and by respecting environmental standards, said Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

In the next five years, Romania has to shape up it environment legislation, so that all guarantees are taken if in five years there will be shale gas exploitation. The PM noted the country’s dependence to Russia and to Gazprom on the gas front.

His statements came as the shale gas exploitation by Chevron in some region of Romania has been opposed since starting last fall. The company managed to build its first exploration well, and is currently searching for shale gas in North East Romania.”

- EU must focus on environmental crisis as well as social and economic | London Green Party (11 April 2014).

Speaking at a conference entitled 'A Better Europe Now' organised by the Spring Alliance – an umbrella group of civil society groups and trade unions working in Brussels - she said we faced an environmental crisis as well as a social and economic one.

It's vital that the EU tackles the triple crises the world is facing: environmental, economic and social. They are all intimately linked, and unless we tackle them together we can't really hope to solve any of them.”

- Why US fracking companies are licking their lips over Ukraine, by Naomi Klein | The Guardian (10 April 2014)

"I call this knack for exploiting crisis for private gain the shock doctrine, and it shows no signs of retreating. We all know how the shock doctrine works: during times of crisis, whether real or manufactured, our elites are able to ram through unpopular policies that are detrimental to the majority under cover of emergency. Sure there are objections – from climate scientists warning of the potent warming powers of methane, or local communities that don't want these high-risk export ports on their beloved coasts. But who has time for debate? It's an emergency! A 911 call ringing! Pass the laws first, think about them later.

Plenty of industries are good at this ploy, but none is more adept at exploiting the rationality-arresting properties of crisis than the global gas sector.

For the past four years the gas lobby has used the economic crisis in Europe to tell countries like Greece that the way out of debt and desperation is to open their beautiful and fragile seas to drilling. And it has employed similar arguments to rationalise fracking across North America and the United Kingdom".


Romania takes U-turn on shale gas

A 2012 decision to suspend shale gas exploration activity, following protests in southeast Romania, was reversed by the Senate on 31 January. The Senate’s overwhelming majority rejected a motion that had been proposed by incumbent PM Victor Ponta, when his USL party was in opposition.


Editorial by Andreas Beckmann

Vienna, February 2013 - Environmental legislation and safeguards are being rolled back in Spain, Greece and other countries, under the pressure, or excuse, of financial and economic crisis. One might think that the same would be happening in the EU’s newest and poorest member states, Bulgaria and Romania.
But in fact, the application of environmental safeguards and legislation has actually improved over the past couple of years and has been more in the focus of attention of the public and politicians.


Despite crisis, Europeans agree more funding is needed for biodiversity

A recent Flash Eurobarometer survey on the “Attitudes towards biodiversity” may offer a clear message that the majority of EU citizens do not favour measures that undermine the conservation of Europe’s natural treasury.

According to the Flash Eurobarometer 379, which was published earlier in November, “[r]oughly  three  quarters  of  Europeans  totally  agree  that  the  EU  should  better  inform citizens about the importance of biodiversity (72%).  Approximately  two  thirds  of  Europeans  totally  agree  that  the  EU  should  increase  the areas where nature is protected in Europe (65%). 

Subscribe to this RSS feed