Environment action plan needs more teeth, says Parliament

Europe’s Sixth Environment Action Programme still needs to be more concrete with explicit targets and stricter timetables, said members of the European Parliament in a debate on 16 January. Parliament should also have a stronger role, said the MEPs.

The European Council has already tightened up the environment plan, following a series of demands from MEPs during the Programme’s first reading in Parliament, but MEPs state that they are still not satisfied.

Parliament is demanding a full role in adopting strategies for the programme’s four priority areas: climate change; nature and biodiversity; environment and health; and natural resources and waste. The strategies should be ready only three years after the programme is adopted, rather than the five years preferred by the Council, say MEPs.

Subsidies that have “significant negative impacts on the environment” must be listed in an inventory and eliminated by 2010, and environmental taxes need to be developed across the Union, said Parliament. MEPs are also calling for exposure to hazardous chemicals to be eliminated by 2020, with legislation to implement the Union’s new chemicals policy to be in place by 2004. There also needs to be a reduction of greenhouse gas from 1990 levels by 1% a year until 2020, and a doubling of the share of combined heat and power (CHP) to 18% of total electricity generation by 2010, say MEPs.

Parliament is also demanding that levels of waste be cut by a fifth from 2000 levels over the Programme’s period, and the number of people affected by noise pollution should be reduced by at least 10% by 2010, and by 20% by 2020.

However, the Environment Commissioner is not so impressed with the Parliament’s ‘long shopping list of demands’, stating that she preferred to concentrate on priorities and on the implementation of measures. The three year deadline demanded by MEPs could not be achieved for all the strategies, she said.

Last year, environmental organisations criticised the draft Sixth Environment Action Programme for being too weak, with a lack of objectives, targets and timetables (see related story).

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