Commission calls for integration of environmental issues into European economic policy

As part of achieving the Lisbon European council’s goal of making the Community the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy, it is essential to change the EU’s approach to environmental policy, says a European Commission (EC) statement.

“There is no inherent contradiction between economic growth and the environment,” said EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Pedro Solbes. “Moving our societies onto environmentally sustainable trajectories will require change. Market-based instruments should be increasingly used in the effort to integrate environmental and economic policy objectives.”

Growth typically allows societies to live in a cleaner, healthier environment as they invest in cleaner technologies and products, says the EC statement. The Commission argues that fears that the pursuit of a high level of environmental protection will inevitably seriously damage the Communities competitiveness are misplaced. However, some sections and regions could face transitional difficulties, requiring a gradual but credible approach, backed up by targeted measures where needed.

“Over time, removing environmentally damaging subsidies and implementing the polluter pays principle should enhance economic efficiency and competitiveness,” said Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom. “It will lead to sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.”

The EC proposes that surveillance of structural reform should include the environmental impacts of economic activity and regulation. This would enable the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines to fully incorporate the objectives of environmental integration, says the Commission. On top of this, says the EC, reviews of the quality and sustainability of public finances should take account of how tax and spending can interact with the environment.

Nevertheless, it will not be possible for the EU to fully achieve environmental sustainability in the longer term without co-ordinated international action, says the EC statement. Challenges such as global warming, ozone depletion, air pollution and trans-boundary water issues need to be tackled internationally.

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