Environment organisation says European action programme is too weak

The largest federation of environmental organisations in Europe has criticised the European Commission’s draft 6th Environmental Action Programme as having an absence of clear targets and timetables.

According to a report by the European Environment Bureau (EEB), the Commission’s proposed programme (see related story) lacks objectives, targets and timetables, and lacks clarity on how it will integrate environmental concerns. The report also emphasises that the prevention and precautionary principles should not be compromised by the domination of cost-benefit requirements, particularly in view of the fact that with human health and biodiversity matters, the benefits can be difficult to quantify.

Quantified targets and timetables are necessary to clarify the extent of the challenge over the coming decade, and to show the urgency involved, but the Commission has only provided such targets for climate change and waste management, says the EEB. The quantitative targets for reduction of disposal lack ambition, and can already be achieved by implementing existing directives. The organisation also regrets that the Commission has even stepped away from targets on air pollution, which have been replaced by a vague and subjective aim of reaching levels “that do not give rise to unacceptable impacts on, and risks to, human health and the environment”.

“The Commissioner is defending the absence of targets and timetables with the argument that more research and discussion is needed, and that they will come in the Thematic Strategies that will be produced in the coming years,” said the EEB’s Secretary General, John Hontelez. “With several Ministries, we think a strong political message from Parliament and Councils about what needs to be achieved, can influence positively the debate about what can be achieved.”

The EEB report has outlined a number of targets which, the organisation says, need to be implemented by the European Commission. These include a minimum reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 30% by 2020, a halt in the decline of biodiversity by 2010, a 50% reduction in noise, and an elimination of environmentally negative subsidies by 2005.

“As this Programme will guide the policies of the EU Institutions in the next ten years, we think it is important that the draft from the Commission is complemented with amendments that reinforce the proposals the Commission has made,” said Hontelez.

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