An open letter from Trust Chief Executive Jonny Hughes to Members of the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety about the structure of the proposed new European Commission, which represents an unacceptable downgrading of the importance of the environment in the EU. The letter was sent on Tuesday 23 September 2014.
Dear Honourable Members of the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety,
On behalf of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, a civil society organisation of over 37,000 members in Scotland, I am writing to express serious concerns over the structure of the proposed new European Commission, the choice of Commissioners, and the content of the Mission letters. The proposals represent an unacceptable downgrading of the importance of the environment in the EU, and a potential threat to the coherence and effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas across Europe, including in Scotland.
European citizens support the environmental achievements of the EU. A recent Eurobarometer survey from 8 September 2014 concluded that 95% of the 28,000 EU citizens interviewed said that protecting the environment is important to them personally and that more should be done to safeguard it. The survey showed a solid majority of citizens support robust EU environmental legislation and rightly so, as a healthy environment underpins a healthy economy and the quality of all our lives.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust is calling on the European Parliament to use its role as scrutinisers of the proposed Commission to prevent any further erosion of environmental policies and the all-important budget allocation and actions linked to such policies.
Specifically, the Scottish Wildlife Trust is supporting the ‘Green 10’ group, calling for the Committee to press for:
- The establishment of a Vice-President for Sustainability, coordinating the environment, fisheries, agriculture and regional policy portfolios. This is particularly vital as President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker made it clear that only Vice-Presidents will be able to bring forward legislation and only legislation in line with his priorities will be accepted. As the environment is completely absent from the priority list, and no Vice-President is charged with promoting it, it is essential this is redressed through the appointment of a Vice-President covering this portfolio.
- Mainstreaming of the environment agenda into the portfolio of the Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, given environmental sustainability underpins economic activity and the future predicted growth in ‘green collar’ jobs.
- The upgrading of the Vice-President for Energy Union to a Vice-President for Climate Action and Energy Union, ensuring this is also reflected in her mandate. This would mean that the Commission representative within the international climate negotiations would have a clear mandate to address the climate crisis. Furthermore, climate action should become a cornerstone for the work of all eight members of the Project Team for a Resilient Energy Union and a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy.
- Reinstatement of the Environment portfolio, restoring its competences and providing the Commissioner with a new mandate to respect the European Parliament’s work and implement the 7th EAP. The Parliament must, furthermore, demand that the mandate to the Environment Commissioner to weaken the Nature Directives is replaced with an instruction to strongly implement nature conservation legislation and to work to achieve the EU 2020 biodiversity target.
- Resolve potential conflicts of interest for the nominees, and notably for the Climate and Energy portfolio.
We sincerely hope that as our elected representatives in Europe you will rise to the challenge of ensuring a balanced European Commission, which keeps environmental protection at the heart of the European project as per The Treaty of Lisbon. The treaty states (in Article 2) that the Union shall “work for the sustainable development of Europe”, including a “high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment”.
Chief Executive, Scottish Wildlife Trust
Global Councillor, IUCN