The vote put the EU legislature’s seal on a deal with the EU Council of Ministers on the programme to lay out the EU’s approach to environmental action up to 2020, ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’.
The programme, the seventh of its kind, will structure EU action on all environmental policy, from water management to climate change, and boost so-called “green growth”.
Environmentalists complain that environmental policy has taken a backseat in many EU member states as they struggle to balance their books during the sovereign debt crisis. But MEPs insist that there will be rewards.
"Environmental action certainly entails costs, as does inaction, but it also entails benefits which public funding authorities and private investors cannot afford to ignore in today's climate,” said Gaston Franco, the MEP dealing with the programme in Parliament.
Franco, a French member of the European People’s Party, urged for climate challenges to be tackled head on, through cross-cutting environmental legislation into other policy areas.
“Environmental concerns must therefore no longer be the adjustment variable, but must be built in, well upstream, to various sector-specific policies,” he said.
At a conference on climate issues organised by the Centre for European Policy Studies on Thursday, European Environment Agency Director Hans Bruyninckx made a similar call.
"We need to engrain climate issues into the wider political framework," Bruyninckx said. "Otherwise, it could lose out to the economic arguments," he added, referring to environment-versus-economy arguments used by some businesses.
Franco also called for the rest of the world to share the environmental burden.
“But the Union must get third countries engaged in this area. To content ourselves with unilateral commitments would not be perceived as fair by European entrepreneurs, and would discourage them from operating on the territory of the Union.”