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We need a European Sustainability Pact

Those who want a secure and competitive Europe, first have to fight climate crisis and environmental destruction. Dependence on fossil resources, the ever-increasing costs of coping with the climate crisis, but also the lack of concepts in dealing with refugees and migration, which will increase due to impacts of climate change, are threats to Europe’s stability and solidarity and restrict the EU’s ability to act.

It is therefore indispensable that the European Union takes a pioneering role in global climate and environmental politics. Not only for the sake of the environment, but also to ensure our long-term prosperity.

Europe must not lose track in the inevitable transition to a sustainable economic model. It is incomprehensible that present and future top representatives of the EU still see climate protection as a luxury that the economy first has to be able to afford. By contrast, the European Parliament seems to be far ahead, as is often the case, when it comes to representing the interests of the Union as a whole rather than those of influential lobbies. A strong and self-confident European Parliament is therefore essential.

Our economic and political stability, the creation of employment and the global standing of the EU depend on a sustainable system change. The European Union must become carbon neutral by 2040, invest half of its budget in climate and environmental protection, and thwart coal, oil and gas. In addition, exemplary EU directives — such as those on water and nature conservation — must finally be implemented more consistently and ambitiously by the member states.

Europe must be a pioneer in environmental protection — not least because Europeans are among those primarily responsible for the ecological crisis. If everyone in the world lived as we do in the European Union, we would have already used up all the resources that our planet can sustainably provide by 10th of May this year. But on an exploited planet, there is no successful future. Rising sea levels and extreme weather, conflicts over ever scarcer natural resources and the health implications of environmental pollution are critical issues that must be tackled resolutely by the members of the European Union. The responsibility for this must not only be passed on to the population; symbolic incentives and beautiful words are not enough.

WWF calls for a European sustainability pact that ensures greater security and prosperity through concrete measures against climate change and environmental degradation. Europe must be developed into a globally leading sustainable economic region in order to secure high quality of life and employment in the long term. Ambitious sustainability standards are vital for Europe’s global position and lead to greater strategic independence. And we need institutional reforms for a climate-friendly policy in Parliament and the Commission: A separate Vice-President of the European Commission must be responsible for climate protection and natural resources and for a sustainable turnaround in European policy. Climate change and environmental degradation are already influencing all areas of daily life and cannot be managed with the pigeonhole thinking we have seen so far. The European peace project can secure peace in the long term only if the struggle to secure the very basis of our lives is given top priority.

Hanna Simons
Head of the Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection Department at WWF Austria
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