Leading environmental NGOs critical of Juncker’s State of the EU address

Published by Lia Flattery on

September 13th, 2017

Jean-Claude Juncker’s renewed call for Europe to lead the fight against climate change is meaningless without concrete commitment for higher emission cuts, Europe’s leading environmental NGO has said.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) was responding to comments made by the European Commission President during his State of the European Union address in Brussels today.

Mr Juncker promised that Europe will make the “planet great again” and announced that the Commission will soon present proposals to reduce the carbon emissions of the transport sector.

Europe’s leading environmental organisations have voiced a number of concerns about Mr Juncker’s promises.

Action over Words

In a statement, the EEB welcomed President Juncker’s climate goals but said that “action more than words” is required to achieve real success in bringing down emissions. The Bureau called for EU commitments to higher emission cuts to be achieved by 2030.

“The only thing that matters to the atmosphere, in the end, is how fast and how much emissions will be reduced, said Jeremy Wates, EEB Secretary General.

“This will require the EU to increase its ambition by 2030 and do more in all sectors – not only transport.”

He expressed the organisation’s fears that President Juncker’s proposed Subsidiarity and Proportionality task force will be used to relegate issues such as environmental protection back to Member State level.

 The European Green Party’s Co-chair Monica Frassoni expressed concerns that Mr Juncker’s support for climate action remains “too vague” and did not convey an understanding of the seriousness of the situation.

Leida Rijnhout of Friends of the Earth Europe said that European citizens want a vision for the future of Europe that prioritises public interest, democracy, environmental and social justice, and human rights.

However, she said that the Commission is still too focused on other issues, such as trade and defense.

Sustainable Development Agenda

According to Ms Rijnhout, it is unclear whether President Juncker’s proposals “will go far enough to really bridge the gap between the EU its citizens” and called for the UN Sustainable Development Agenda to be at the centre of future visions for Europe.

FoE Europe is part of a 250-strong pan-European alliance promoting an alternative future plan for Europe in which sustainability sits firmly at the heart of the European project.

Mr Wates also highlighted the absence of sustainability or the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda from President Juncker’s speech.

“This is deeply worrying as we need to bring the Sustainable Development Goals to the heart of policymaking at European and Member State level”, he added.

Trade Deals

Mr Juncker also revealed that the Commission is proposing to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, as well as highlighting the EU’s agreement with Japan on a new economic partnership.

Unlike previous trade deal negotiations with the US and Canada, Mr Juncker said that the Commission will publish all future draft negotiating mandates in full.

“Citizens have the right to know what the Commission is proposing. Gone are the days of no transparency,” he said, adding that the European Parliament will have the final say on all future trade agreements.

FoE’s Paul de Clerck, however, said that Mr Juncker’s plans on trade ignore “widespread criticism” that they threaten Europe’s social, environmental and health standards.

The controversial Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), set to provisionally apply from next week, has received strong opposition across Europe, with the main issue of contention centered on the Investor Court Settlement (ICS) provision.

The ICS system would allow foreign corporations to sue Governments in a special arbitration system where state action impact on companies profitability or expectations of profit.

The legality of the controversial system is set to be scrutinized by the European Court of Justice following a request from the Belgian government for the Luxembourg-based count to examine if the ICS provision is compatible with EU law.

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Lia Flattery

Lía is a former writer and Deputy Editor at Trinity News. She also has a BA in History and English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.