'Could do better' Euro-environmentalists grade UK presidency

The good work done on climate change by the UK during its European presidency has been undermined by the eco-unfriendly budget deal hammered out this week.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has measured the UK's performance against ten green tests and found the country's presidency wanting.

While Blair got off to a good start making the right noises about climate change he has, according to the bureau, taken a nose dive towards the end of his term and it will be the disappointing UK-brokered Financial Perspective, which outlines EU spending from 2007-2013, that is remembered by environmentalists.

John Hontelez, Secretary General of the EEB, said: "The European Council conclusions on the Financial Perspective ignore the demands from the Commission, the European Parliament and the Environment Council, for a significant allocation of EU funds to the protection of Europe's biodiversity.

"Rural Development funds, which have a lot of potential for improving our environment, have been slashed, and the final settlement remains in the dark about a budget for environmental policy work over the coming years.

"The deal ignores one of the key tasks for the EU in the eyes of European citizens - protecting and improving the EU environment, also laid down as an obligation in the EU treaties."

While the EEB takes a dim view of the UK's budgetry bargaining, it has on the whole been impressed with its efforts to address climate change.

It welcomes the work done by the presidency in achieving the results of the Montreal climate conference, which the bureau believes confirmed that the world community will work together to follow up on the Kyoto Protocol, with the notable exception of the world's biggest polluter, the USA.

It was also pleased by progressive decisions of the EU Council of Environment Ministers on targeting aviation emissions in the future, though disappointed with the refusal of member states to adopt robust and legally binding targets for increasing energy efficiency.

The EEB was also reasonably impressed by the UK's stance on important environmental legislation such as REACH and LIFE+ and progress that had been made pushing it through during the presidency.

Though disappointed with the contents of the latest incarnation of the REACH agreement, the bureau has been pleased with the speed at which it has been moved through parliament.

On LIFE+ the EEB is satisfied with the position of Environment Ministers regarding the way the future EU environment fund should be handled, but this result is undermined by the uncertainty over future funding - and the absence of any reference to Natura 2000 - in the Financial Perspective.

The assessment also recognises that the presidency was restricted by delays in the Commission with releasing two Thematic Strategies it was keen to move forward - one on the Sustainable Use of Resources, and one on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste.

By Sam Bond



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