Satu Hassi 19.10.05
There was a time, when environmental protection was ”good” for almost everyone, except big polluting companies. Nowadays environmental policy is more and more often presented as a threat to social goals. But in reality environmental protection is part of the social justice. It is part of the justice bewteen generations ans also part of global justice.
According to a widespread belief environmental policy threatens the economic goals. There is plenty of evidence showing the opposite. One of the leading experts of competitiveness, American professor Michael Porter, has studied the factors behind international competitiveness of countries, he has studied the actual development of national economies. One of his basic findings is that environmental policy is promoting competitiveness, and even more, exactly in those areas where countries have most amibitious national environmental policies their competitiveness is best. His conclusion is that strictening environmental legislation gives an incentive to innovations, and this leads to better economic performance. Also in Europe the studies analysing the cost of past environmental measures show consistenly that the actual cost is always lower, and in most cases much lower than estimated before the new legislation.
It is easy to understand that no generation has the right to exploit natural resources, or any resources in a way which leaves next generations with a smaller amount of resources. But the fair share of resources between generations is not the whole story. I take an example which is very actual for us in the European Parliament, the chemicals legislation. The studies measuring the quality of male sperm in different countries showed for a long time that Finnish men had the best sperm quality in Europe. But a study published last year showed a rapid decline in young men. News published recently tell that if this downward trend continues, a remarkable part of men will be infertile after some decades.
Some examples about environment and global justice.
Some years ago a study was published which suggested that the reason for the terrible drought in Sahel in Africa more than a decade ago was caused by pollution from Europe, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. When these emissions were reduced in Europe, the situation improved in Africa.
When climate is changing, poor people are suffering first and worst. A recent study of the World Bank told that 1 of 5 illnesses in developing countries is linked to environmental problems, pollution and climate change, and that climate change causes 150 000 premature deaths yearly in developing countries.
USA is a rich country. But even there, when hurricane Katrina hit, poor part of the populations suffered worst.
The future post-Kyoto climate policy, after 2012 is one of the most difficult issues to be solved. The deal, which hopefully will be made, will not only be an environmental deal, it will unavoidably also be a decision on sharing of global resource, the ability of the atmosphere to absorb emissions. The present industrialised countries have almost alone created the climate problem. USA, the richest nation of the world, is the biggest polluter. The emissions are rising very rapidly in some developing countries, like China and India, which have by and large doubled their emissions after 1990. But still both in USA and EU the emissions per capita are far bigger. In USA the emissions per capita are about 20 tons per person per year, in EU 10 tons, in China 2 tons and in India 1 ton.
Also in our own societies environment is a part of social justice here and now. According to the best available estimates 300 000 people are dying prematurely in Europe because of air pollution, primarily small particles in the air, and 30 000 people are dying for illnesses caused by exposure to chemicals at work.