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EU discusses new Environmental Action Programme, to feed into the Rio+20 discussions

United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)In light of the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), to be held in June, the European Parliament (EP) on 20 April called upon the European Commission (EC) to draft a new Environmental Action Programme (EAP) “without delay”. The vote was issued one day after Environmental Ministers had concluded their informal discussions on a successor programme for the 6th EAP that is set to expire in July. Participants agreed on the need to foster a green economy agenda with clear and realistic targets, to be promoted at Rio+20.

In the EP resolution, MEPs point to the lack of implementation in the areas of air pollution control, water treatment as well as waste and nature conservation and called upon the EC to consider these shortcomings in the 7th EAP. EU member states are also urged to use Rio+20 as an opportunity to seek stronger international environmental governance, and to present a coherent position on a green economy agenda. EU Environmental Ministers at an informal meeting in Horsens Denmark agreed that the current crisis could only be tackled by bringing economic and environmental concerns together, as a means of paving the way for more efficient and sustainable production patterns.

Participants also highlighted the importance of further stressing the social dimension of sustainable development, including social equity and poverty eradication. “An inclusive green economy will be essential for growth and poverty eradication, offering opportunities for all countries around the world and in all stages of development. Responding to the challenges of resource constraints and pressures requires us all to focus on clear goals in relation to the five 'pillars of life': water, sustainable energy, oceans, land and ecosystems, and resource efficiency and waste in particular”, said Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik during the meeting. These five priorities should however not be regarded as a “closed list” but as a basis for negotiations at Rio+20, the Presidency conclusion reads. It was also emphasised that the EU was not intending to use these priorities as a “counter proposal” for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are expected to be agreed upon during the summit. Instead, “the EU should make clear to our global partners that an inclusive green economy and SDGs can and must go hand-in-hand. The green economy roadmap is a vehicle towards achieving sustainable development and as such also towards achieving SDGs”, says the declaration.

In a joint letter dated 16th April 2012 and sent to all of the EU Environment Ministers ahead of their informal meeting, Eurostep in collaboration with ANND, Social Watch, Third World Network and ALOP warned that “the green economy as presented by the EU, while promoting more ecological practices, still relies on an unsustainable model based on the growth of materialistic consumption and on insufficiently regulated and equitable financial and economic activities”. According to the organisations, these issues must be addressed in Rio to ensure the link between the green economy and the three core dimensions of sustainable development. Sustainable development will otherwise remain a blurry dream.

Read the EP resolution here: European Parliament - Texts adopted

Read the informal meeting outcome document here: Danish Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2012 (pdf)

Read the joint (Eurostep, ANND, Social Watch, Third World Network and ALOP) letter here: Eurostep

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