Satu Hassi, MEP
Vice chairperson of the Committee of Environment and Public Health in European Parliament
30th June, 2005
Environmental policy is very much about defusing time bombs. There are several of them ticking. We are loosing biodiversity; the rate of extinctions is 1000 times more compared to pre-industrial era. We are changing the temperature of the planet’s atmosphere. The latest climate science tells us that we possibly have only up to 10 years to get the global emissions under control.
There are tens of thousands of chemicals in our daily environment, the properties of which are not adequately known and which cause e.g. allergies, respiratory illnesses, cancers and fertility problems. Many of these chemicals accumulate in our bodies and even in the bodies of arctic animals, such as polar bears. Some effects of these chemicals may become visible only in our children.
The European chemicals legislation proposal, called REACH, is by far the biggest issue in terms of text volume which on the Environment Committee agenda for the second half of 2005. For the moment we do not know enough of the health and environmental effects of the 30 000 chemicals sold in the European market in quantities over 1 tonne per year. Only 3 % of these substances have been tested properly. For example carcinogenicity is not known for 90 % of these substances. The basic idea of the proposal is to give a timeframe for the industry to test and register such chemicals. The substances which are found to be most harmful would require authorization.
The chemicals legislation will continue to be debated fiercely in the European Parliament and among the Member States. We hope to have first readings by both Parliament and Council by the end of the year.
I am delighted that PM Blair has announced climate policy to be one of the UK priorities. At the same time I was disappointed by his speech in the European Parliament where he hardly mentioned this priority. I hope he does not belong to those people believing that climate protection harms competitiveness and employment. In reality improving energy efficiency means more rational use of our resources. Developing clean energy technology creates new jobs and new market opportunities.
Most urgently we need an international agreement on post-2012 commitments, to follow-up the first Kyoto commitment period. The UK presidency needs to do its utmost to promote an international agreement which would guarantee that global warming will be limited below +2 °C compared to the pre-industrial levels. Scientists broadly agree that exceeding +2 °C would pose too high risk of disastrous and irreversible changes in ecosystems, e.g. sea level rise which might continue for centuries, even millennia.
As regards the EU internal policies, the European Parliament will need to overturn the Member States from their refusal to adopt mandatory energy efficiency targets in its second reading of recently proposed legislation. This is needed to meet the EU Kyoto target. There are sectors where new measures are needed, as aviation, which for the moment is outside CO2 emissions control, and road transport, where the emissions are growing very fast. The present voluntary agreement with car manufacturers is not enough, we need more binding targets.
Among the many other issues on the table, I mention only LIFE+ and the financing of the Natura 2000 network. An agreement on the necessary funds for management of the network protecting European biodiversity must be found.