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The new European initiative – titled ‘Living well within the limits of our planet – aims to meet nine objectives by 2020. These include “protecting nature and strengthening ecological resilience, boosting resource-efficient, low-carbon economic growth and addressing environment-related threats to health”.
Some of the biggest concerns for climate experts have been Europe’s energy needs and the carbon emissions associated with burning fuel and coal.
There have also been fears that environmental policy had been put on the backburner until most European countries pulled out of economic recession.
European Environment Agency Director Hans Bruyninckx had earlier said that the continent needed to “engrain climate issues into the wider political framework”.
“Otherwise, it could lose out to the economic arguments.”
Thursday’s agreement is a culmination of year-long discussions in which members of the European Parliament urged their governments to see environmental protection as an economic prerogative.
While they agreed there would be initial costs, they suggested that environmental policy not be seen as an “adjustment variable”. They say that economic models need to be redrawn to include environmental protection as a fundamental aspect.
Despite the 7-year agreement, global environmental policy continues to be a contentious issue.
On Wednesday, leading environmental groups – including WWF, OXFAM, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth Europe – walked out of the crucial UN’s 19th Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in the Polish capital Warsaw, citing lack of action from governments to tackle critical issues.
“The Warsaw Climate Conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing. In fact, the actions of many rich countries here in Warsaw are directly undermining the UNFCCC itself, which is an important multilateral process that must succeed if we are to fix the global climate crisis,” they said in a joint statement.
Shortly after, dozens of developing and poor nations walked out of the conference saying that the costs they were asked to pay for environmental reform were much too high and that they were receiving far too little international support.