Barcelona, March 16, 2002 – The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Friends of the Earth Europe concluded that the Barcelona Summit was a wasted opportunity for sustainable development. Not one new decision to implement the EU Sustainable Development Strategy was taken, nor new incentives given to the EU institutions to balance economic development with particular environmental conditions.
John Hontelez, Secretary General of the EEB said: “The Goteborg Summit in 2001, decided that the Spring Summits are to complete the economic and social renewal agenda with an environmental dimension and therefore establish a new approach to policy making. The Barcelona Summit, however, treats the environmental dimension as a formality only, taking stock of what is happening, but not giving any new incentives. Complacency instead of urgency, this is a dramatically wrong attitude of Europe’s political leaders. The decision on postponing environmental taxes on energy products is an outrage.”
EEB and FOE Europe are upset by the Summit’s decision to postpone a decision on environmental taxes on energy products until 2004, and to connect it with the dispute on the liberalisation of energy markets.
The environmental organisations also deplore the failure of the Summit to criticize the complacency of several Councils of Ministers regarding the environmental policy integration process, an obligation laid down in the EU Treaty. This process, started at the 1998 Summit in Cardiff, suffers from the absence of clear sectoral targets, timetables and the obligation to use instruments that make prices of goods and services reflect their environmental impact.
According to the organisations, the Barcelona Summit does not give any further direction to the Commission and the Member States to take urgent steps to reduce the environmental and health impacts of their economic and sectoral policies. The making of a new chemicals policy was delayed and risks complete failure due to a strong subversive campaign from industry. Environmental pricing of transport needs explicit high level political support, given the strong opposition of interest groups. Biodiversity is declining and needs uncompromised implementation of current EU laws, as well as new initiatives. The public opposition to GMOs in food production needs to be respected. Dramatic initiatives are needed to combine innovation with a reduction of resource use targets. All of these elements are absent in the Summit’s conclusions.
The organisations welcome the reconfirmation of the objective to ratify Kyoto before the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. But more initiatives are needed from the EU to make that Summit a success. The organisations urge the EU governments to develop a promising external dimension for its Sustainable Development Strategy in the coming months, dramatically improving the weak proposals the Commission produced last month.
Finally, the EEB and FOE Europe regret to see that the Sustainability Impact Assessment for all major policy proposals has been postponed further and made more and more dependent on another exercise with a very different purpose, one on “better regulation”.
Frederic Thoma (FoEE), +32-486-401895