On 1 July, Finland will assume the presidency of the European Union until the end of 2019. Under the title ‘Sustainable Europe – Sustainable Future’, the Finnish government released the programme it will seek to pursue over the coming six months.
One of the Finnish presidency’s top priorities is to make the European Union a global leader in climate action, with its flagship initiative in this regard to make the EU completely climate neutral by 2050. Finland leads by example, having already committed to net carbon neutrality by 2035. Other actions Finland foresees include expanding the circular economy to new sectors, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and protecting biodiversity.
“We look forward to the Finnish presidency driving a positive agenda to address the environmental challenges facing Europe in a quickly changing geopolitical reality at home and globally,” said Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a network of over 150 organisations in more than 30 countries. “Finland has an especially important role in helping promote the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and push for a Green New Deal to catalyse a just transition to a one planet economy.”
To help the Finnish Presidency, as well as future presidencies of the EU, the EEB, in collaboration with the marine protection umbrella group Seas at Risk, has drawn up a blueprint for action in the form of a memorandum.
The document outlines a ten-point action plan, the components of which also constitute the criteria to ‘green test’ the presidency’s performance at the end of its term. The proposed measures include ambitious climate commitments, such as zero emissions through an industrial strategy founded on the circular economy, halting biodiversity loss on land and in the oceans, as well as harnessing the power of EU budgets, such as the Common Agricultural Policy, to improve livelihoods and life on Earth.
The proposed blueprint also urges the weaving of the Sustainable Development Goals into every aspect of EU policies and actions so that they become “an overarching framework for all priorities”.
Europe and the world have reached a critical juncture where complacency and inaction are no longer an option. “We are running out of time to prevent irreversible climate change, to save precious biodiversity from extinction, to eliminate toxic chemicals that are cutting people’s lives short, and more,” emphasises the EEB’s Jeremy Wates.
This makes it imperative to act now. “With the green wave that swept through Europe during the recent European Parliament elections, EU leaders now have a mandate to act. They must use it. Failing to do so will be catastrophic and future generations will judge you harshly.”
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