Five Ways the EU is protecting our world.
By Catherine Bearder MEP in Challenge
( from Summer 2016 Challenge, the GLD magazine)
Catherine Bearder argues the EU is key to protecting our world.
One of the key issues that got me interested in politics at the European level was the environment. It has always struck me that truly effective green policies are best achieved by working together internationally, and the EU gives us the best means to do this.
Being part of Europe means we can push for the kind of coordinated approach needed to protect our planet for future generations. And having commonly agreed EU standards prevents a race to the bottom between governments and businesses competing with each other, ensuring that we have minimum rules protecting against pollution or biodiversity loss.
Ahead of the EU referendum, here are five key ways the EU benefits the environment
Leading the global fight against climate change
Global warming knows no borders, and already we are seeing the devastating impact of climate change on Pacific islands and the Great Barrier Reef. It is imperative that urgent action is taken to reduce carbon emissions and prevent catastrophic climate change. The EU has already led by example on this issue, cutting carbon emissions by 23% since 1990 and pledging to cut them by at least 40% by 2030. Its Emission Trading Scheme is a key tool to cut greenhouse gas emissions from industry at the lowest cost, and has created a model now being copied across the world.Being in Europe has also amplified Britain's voice in global climate talks. As Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey worked hard to build alliances for a strong and ambitious EU joint position. This laid the groundwork for the historic climate agreement in Paris last year. It's no coincidence that prominent figures in the leave campaign are also climate change deniers. They would happily tear up all this good work if we left. Being in the EU gives us the best chance to push for the international action needed to reverse the tide and protect our planet from global warming.
Building a more sustainable economyMaking the transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon economy is essential if we are going to protect the environment in the long-term. That means ending overconsumption and reliance on damaging fossil fuels. Here again, Europe is leading the way. A fifth of all EU funding is committed to measures that will help tackle climate change, whether that's investing in renewable energy or researching new low-carbon technologies. EU energy-efficiency rules on household appliances have played a key role in cutting unnecessary waste and will save the average household around £138 a year by 2020. Similarly, fuel-efficiency rules are steadily driving down car emissions and leading to savings for consumers at the pump, while the EU is supporting an international network of charging points for electric cars.EU proposals currently being discussed on the circular economy will set recycling targets, both for companies and local authorities, helping to put an end to the throwaway society. This will make sure precious natural resources are reused and not put on the scrapheap. The EU is also taking action to reduce the scourge of marine litter, providing €160.5 million from now until 2020 to fight pollution at sea. I am now fighting for an EU-wide ban on microbeads in cosmetic products that are doing untold damage to our oceans. There remains much to be done, but one thing is for sure, staying in the EU is the best way to build a greener more sustainable future.
Protecting biodiversity in EuropeI've always been passionate about preserving biodiversity, both in the UK and around the world. That is why I am also determined to uphold European legislation that plays a crucial role in protecting our nature and wildlife. Over 1000 threatened species are protected by the EU's nature laws. Another 620 natural habitats in the UK, from the Dungeness Reserve in Kent to the North Yorkshire Moors, are protected from overdevelopment by EU rules.
I've visited Wildlife Trust nature reserves across the South East and the people working there are clear that the EU is central to their work, ensuring a clear long-term framework for protecting our environment and providing vital funding.
Being part of the EU also gives the UK a strong voice when it comes to protecting biodiversity overseas. Take the plight of the turtle dove, a species threatened by extinction due to unsustainable hunting and habitat loss. I'm proud to have been named the RSPB's turtle dove champion, and have been fighting hard with other MEPs to ensure more is done to protect this treasured bird as it travels through Europe. Just recently our efforts paid off as the EU Commission called on Malta to introduce a moratorium on spring hunting, and is now considering taking the Maltese government to court for failing to respect the EU's Birds Directive. Outside the EU we would be robbed of our ability to stand up for strong nature laws that protect our shared wildlife.
Stamping out wildlife crimeAs some of you will know the fight against wildlife trafficking is a cause close to my heart. In my youth I spent months in the bush studying hyenas with my husband and seeing majestic wildlife firsthand. So it saddens me greatly to see the immense damage being done by soaring rates of poaching and the rise in the illegal wildlife trade. It's not just the iconic species like elephants, rhinos and tigers now facing extinction. Many other rare species are increasingly under threat from the criminal gangs that see them as just another commodity to be bought and sold.
The EU has already led the way in tackling poaching, providing over £10m in 2014 for projects that reduce the killing of elephants and other endangered species. Now the Commission has put forward proposals to step up the fight against wildlife trafficking, drawing up an action plan that launched in March. I've been named the lead MEP on the plans, and will be working to strengthen cooperation between law enforcement and ensuring there are minimum sanctions in place across all EU countries for wildlife traffickers. Europe is a major destination and transit point for the illegal wildlife trade. That is why we need strong EU cooperation so we can stay one step ahead of criminal gangs and help preserve endangered species for future generations.
Improving air quality
Air pollution is causing a public health crisis across many UK cities. The evidence now suggests poor air quality leads to at least 40,000 early deaths in Britain each year, and is also leading to soaring rates of asthma. There is now broad consensus that more needs to be done to tackle the worse effects of air pollution. But many people do not realise that around 40% of harmful pollution in Britain actually comes from abroad, much of it blowing in from the continent, and that likewise much pollution emitted in the UK ends up in the rest of Europe. This is a typical example of an issue we must work together to address across
As the Liberal group's lead negotiator on the EU's new air quality I've been fighting for ambitious pollution limits to be met by 2030, was delighted to have been given a Green Ribbon Award for my work on this issue earlier this month. Pollution doesn't just come from factories or cars, agriculture is also responsible for many harmful emissions. So it's important that we have a strict framework at European level that ensures every country and sector plays their part in improving air quality.
Catherine Bearder is Lib Dem MEP for the South East