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Member States must oppose withdrawal of key environmental proposals at EU level

  • 2014. november 01. 01:00
  • Csilla

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has written to Europe’s Prime Ministers urging them to oppose any withdrawal of the Commission’s Clean Air and Waste Packages. This follows reports that European Commission President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans have put these recently issued proposals on a short list of legislation that could be axed.

The air and circular economy packages were published by the European Commission in December 2013 and July 2014 to clean up Europe’s air and help the European economy become more resource-efficient. These proposals are already under consideration by the European Parliament and the Council of EU Ministers. The Juncker Commission’s threat to now withdraw these proposals is part of the new Commission’s comprehensive downgrading of environmental policies in favour of short-term business interests.

In the open letter to the Prime Ministers, Jeremy Wates, the European Environmental Bureau’s Secretary-General, stated that withdrawal of the proposals, after the several years of work invested in them, would represent “an extraordinary inefficiency in a body which claims to believe in better regulation” and would “seriously undermine the credibility of the EU as a decision-making body”.

The Commission might like us to believe that by withdrawing these proposals, it would be responding to public demand for less intervention from Brussels. In fact successive polls show considerable public support for action on the environment,” said Jeremy Wates. “Both the Air and Waste Packages can deliver considerable economic and environmental benefits, with the former protecting human health and the latter creating large numbers of jobs.

Air pollution kills ten times as many people as road traffic accidents [1]. Yet action to improve air quality has not received anywhere near the same degree of attention, despite 79% of citizens across Europe wanting the EU to take action in this area [2]. The Commission’s Clean Air Package would reduce the number of premature deaths resulting from exposure to air pollution by 58,000 per year by 2030 and the corresponding economic benefits would amount to €40-140 billion per year in 2030. Meanwhile, total emission control costs from implementing the package amount to just €3.4 billion per year in 2030 [3]. In essence, the Clean Air Package is a cost-effective way of cutting the 400,000 premature deaths due to air pollution every year. Other air pollution effects which the proposal will tackle include severe damage to the environment through eutrophication, acidification and ground-level ozone throughout Europe.

The proposed reform of waste legislation, which is a central component of the Circular Economy Package, is an essential element of Europe’s future competitiveness and, if passed, would help create 180,000 sustainable jobs [4]. It would help make European businesses more competitive and reduce demand for resources that will become scarcer and more costly in the future. Across Europe, civil society, municipalities and industry across Europe have already shown their support for the package [5]. Jeremy Wates added: “Protecting the environment is clearly nowhere near this Commission’s agenda. But placing it on the sacrificial altar of deregulation is a big mistake. 400,000 people will continue dying prematurely every year because of air pollution and we will miss the boat when it comes to becoming a green, circular economy.”

Notes to editors
[1] See Communication from the European Commission, 2013: A Clean Air Programme for Europe:, page 5.
[2] See Eurobarometer #360 ‘Attitudes of Europeans Towards Air Quality’:
[3] See the European Commission press release:
[4] See the European Commission webpage:
[5] See for example the papers or press releases by Friends of the Earth Europe, EEB, Zero Waste Europe, Surfrider, Rreuse, Seas at Risk, Municipal Waste Europe, the European Waste Management Industry (FEAD), the European Container Glass Association (FEVE), Eurometaux, Philips, IKEA etc.