European elections: Candidates must put people and environment centre stage

Written by Ester Asin on 26 October 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

A thriving future for Europe is not possible on a depleted planet, argues Ester Asin.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock


2019 will be a crucial year for the EU - a year of choices, but also a year to take stock. The recent United Nations special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C highlighted the stark reality: we are destroying our planet at an alarming rate and this is increasingly affecting all aspects of our daily lives.

All current and future European politicians and leaders now appear to recognise this challenge. I am, however, not entirely sure they realise its full significance and implications.

We cannot build our future on a depleted planet. We cannot ignore what is in front of our eyes. Extreme weather and environmental degradation show up more and more; from the poor air quality in our cities to the heat waves that struck Europe this summer. These impacts are affecting our safety, our economic competitiveness and the prescriptions of international relations.


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There is no doubt that we are dealing with unprecedented challenges, but by taking urgent action to combat climate change and nature loss, we can turn the tide and create a prosperous future for Europe and its citizens.

At WWF we see unprecedented opportunities amid the crisis. In our “European Sustainability Pact for a Safer, more Competitive and Responsible EU”, we set out a series of goals and actions to be taken in the next five years. We are calling for EU election candidates and EU leaders to put people’s wellbeing, in a thriving environment, at the centre of their thinking.

So what can European policy-makers do? To begin with, they must recognise that investing in a sustainable economy are a precondition for increasing the EU’s global competitiveness, creating new and durable jobs, and put Europe in the driving seat to lead in the sectors of tomorrow’s economy.

Moreover, as a global rule-setter, the EU would become less resource-dependent and we would reduce our environmental footprint on other parts of the world.

"We are calling for EU election candidates and EU leaders to put people’s wellbeing, in a thriving environment, at the centre of their thinking"

But these results will only be achievable if we consistently include climate action and environmental protection in all areas of policy making. This means fundamental institutional changes within the European Parliament, where the current committee approach needs to be re-thought to better mainstream environmental concerns, particularly in those policy areas that have the highest impacts on our environment and climate.

And in the European Commission, we must ensure better integration between relevant policy areas by appointing a Vice-President for Climate Action and Natural Resources.

Over the next two years, the international community will review the progress made towards key international commitments, through the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Although the EU is currently behind on achieving these commitments, we can still turn the tide. EU policy-makers and heads of state and government need to lead this fight for our future. I believe that this is their duty.

May 2019 is therefore not just another election. It is the last one before we go past the point of no return. For our own sake and that of future generations, we must not allow this to happen. The EU needs to lead this fight for our future.

Download the WWF report “European Sustainability Pact for a Safer, more Competitive and Responsible EU

About the author

Ester Asin is director of the WWF European Policy Office

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