European Movement UK

Britain's future is with Europe! Join the debate and put your opinion forward!

by Catherine Bearder MEP, Liberal Democrat, South East of England///

The nomination of Jean Claude Juncker as Commission President has been something of a bumpy process to say the least. However, it’s now time to move forward and see how to make the best use of Britain’s EU membership over the next five years. That will mean the Juncker Commission working together with the Parliament, pro-European MEPs and others who are constructive about progressing the EU, to drive forward legislation that will help us address global challenges and generate jobs and growth.

Although Juncker got little support from British MEPs, including me, he has made some sensible proposals including completing the digital single market, investing in modern broadband and energy infrastructure, and securing a balanced trade deal with the US. These are all measures that will help unleash the potential for economic growth across Europe and tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.

However, there was one glaring omission from Juncker’s programme: the environment. While Mr Juncker has rightly called for measures to reduce Europe’s dependency on imported fossil fuels and invest more in renewable energy, he fails to mention the need to curb pollution, deforestation and the unsustainable use of natural resources that are causing irreversible damage to the future of our planet and its inhabitants.

Yes, the EU must put the pursuit of growth and job creation at the heart of its policy agenda. But this growth must be sustainable. Or else, we risk emerging from the financial crisis only to face a far graver environmental one. That is why I will be putting sustainability and the protection of biodiversity at the heart of my work in the Environment Committee.

Key to this will be convincing my colleagues that using our resources more efficiently and cutting greenhouse gas emissions not only makes ecological sense, it makes economic sense too. In a world of emerging economies all vying for limited natural resources, there is an urgent need to improve sustainability, cut down on waste and make the transition to a more circular economy. This will not happen unless there is political will and investment in research and development. We also urgently need to fix the EU’s flawed emissions trading scheme to boost green investment and use it as a model for a wider global deal on curbing carbon emissions.

But preventing climate change and making the move to a more sustainable economy is not only integral to our long-term survival, it is also a huge opportunity in terms of jobs, business development and exports. The EU is already a world leader when it comes to developing green technologies and if we play our cards right we can lead the global shift towards sustainability. But unleashing the potential of green growth will need an ambitious and holistic approach from the EU and national governments, not one that sees the environment simply as a bolt-on.

So when the designated Commissioners come for their hearings at the Parliament in September to try and get the backing of MEPs, I will be looking for clear answers on what they plan to do to promote sustainability and fight climate change. I also want to see a real recognition of the European Parliament as a full partner in the legislative process, helping to shape the policy agenda.

If we are to truly tackle climate change, cut down on wasteful consumption and reverse the dramatic loss of biodiversity, we will need to work together – in our homes, our workplaces, across countries, continents and political parties. I am determined to play my full part.


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