Sunday

20th Jan 2019

Scrapping of environmental plans 'alarming'

  • The European Commission plans to scrap a proposal aimed at reducing waste (Photo: United Nations Photo)

A group of 10 environmental NGOs are “deeply concerned” by draft European Commission plans to scrap proposals aimed at improving air quality and reducing waste.

The commission is due to present its so-called working programme next week, but a draft of the 2015 legislative programme was leaked on Thursday (11 December).

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The same day, the regional director of BirdLife Europe wrote an open letter on behalf of 10 environmental groups to commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, who is in charge of “better regulation”.

“It is alarming that, despite all the public reassurances of President Juncker and yourself … you seem to have immediately singled out key proposals for environment and health protection as your prime target”, the letter said.

The letter, dated 11 December, was signed by groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF.

According to the draft plans, a bill aimed at reducing pollutants will be “modified as part of the legislative follow-up to the 2030 Energy and Climate package”, a legislative framework which was agreed by EU leaders in October.

A plan to update EU rules on reducing waste, known as the circular economy package, will be scrapped because there is “no foreseeable agreement”.

“By withdrawing the air quality proposal the European Commission would miss the opportunity to prevent as many as 58,000 premature deaths per year that result from air pollution, when the current toll is 400,000 premature deaths per year”, the NGOs' letter states.

Withdrawal of the circular economy package would lead to a missed opportunity “to create as many as 180,000 new jobs”.

The environmentalists say that the proposed binning of the rules show the commission holds business interests above “the health and quality of life of its citizens”, and points to opinion polls showing support from EU citizens for rules protecting the environment and combating air pollution.

“This will have the effect of alienating precisely those citizens who have been among the EU’s strongest supporters.”

Another NGO, not one of the 10 signatories, told this website that the scrapping of the air quality plan “makes absolutely no sense”.

Alan Andrews of Client Earth believes that making the proposal part of the 2030 package will delay its implementation.

“Whoever decides to scrap this proposal will have that on their conscience”, Andrews said.

The original proposal “would probably have been agreed in 2016 or 2017 and come into force in 2018”, Andrews said, but including it in the 2030 package “is a cynical attempt to kick this into the long grass”.

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