7th EAP: EU must enforce current environmental laws or risk greater environmental loss

Friday, November 15, 2013
Brussels, Belgium

The European Union’s 7th Environmental Action Plan, also known as a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020, was approved today by the EU Council. The theme of the plan is ‘living well, within the limits of our planet’. An admirable statement that is easier said than done.

“In the face of our current environmental challenges it is vital that we act quickly to achieve the targets we have set ourselves,” said IFAW’ European Regional Director Sonja Van Tichelen. “But these laws are mere words on paper if they are not implemented and properly enforced.”

Numerous passages in the 7th EAP acknowledge the need to improve the implementation of existing legislation including the fourth priority under Article 2: ‘to maximize the benefits of Union environment legislation by improving implementation.’

The text goes on to say, “many environmental trends in the Union continue to be a cause for concern, not least due to insufficient implementation of existing Union environment legislation.

“The fact that only 17% of species and habitats under the Habitats Directive, as spelled out in the 7th EAP, have a favourable status should be an embarrassment to Europeans and governments,” continued Van Tichelen. “Wildlife in Europe and around the world are under unparalleled pressure. We need to ensure that the agencies and organisations charged with protecting wildlife and enforcing laws have the tools and finances available to do their job properly.”

The waters surrounding the EU are no different.

“Member States bordering on our invaluable seas should be appalled that the Natura 2000 network is so behind schedule that it needs to be highlighted in the 7th EAP. The status quo of good regulatory intentions and poor implementation cannot continue. The EU should be seen as a global environmental leader but this perception is completely at odds with the reality on the ground in Europe.”

IFAW has worked on numerous initiatives such as reducing ocean noise from shipping, which can have a devastating impact on marine mammals, in European waters.

On the global front the 7th EAP points out that the EU has “signed up to a large number of legally binding (international) commitments” and that “The Union and its Member States should now ensure that those commitments are implemented within the Union, and should promote their implementation globally.”

“The EU continues to position itself as a global leader on the environment but it cannot lead, and others will not follow, if it does not meet the obligations it sets for itself at agreements like Rio +20,” concluded Van Tichelen. “IFAW will continue to work with the Commission, Parliament and Council towards the 2020 objectives for the benefit of Europeans and wildlife.”

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