EEA Director: environmental regulation not to blame for Lisbon failure

Better implementation – not cutting down on environmental legislation – is required to balance out the three dimensions of the Lisbon strategy, EEA Director Jacqueline McGlade has told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.

There is a “deeply rooted prejudice” among many governments and many industries that environmental regulation is “the reason why [the EU] is not competitive”, European Environmental Agency (EEA) Director Jacqueline McGlade has told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview. 

“This is a misconception about what regulation does.”

In fact, McGlade believes that the reverse is true. “When you look at the past decade, environmental regulation has helped bring about an increased efficiency of resources [and] an increased level of innovation” for business, she says.

Putting a business hat on, McGlade gave a counter-argument to the ‘sick child’ analogy used by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to justify an increased focus on economic growth under the renewed Lisbon strategy (see EURACTIV, 3 Feb. 2005). 

“If I had three companies and one of them was not doing well, I would probably concentrate on the two that were doing well,” she said in reference to the sustainable development and social pillars of the strategy.

“Don’t call the economy sick, just say that it perhaps needs to be more disciplined and more stable” in the way it is being implemented, she went on. 

Turning to climate change and the debate on emissions reduction targets after 2012, she says the EU strategy to try to bring the world’s largest emitters on board is “the right thing to do”. But she adds that the EU should also “get its own house in order” before criticising countries such as China and India. 

“We have to be seen to be responsible and looking after our own resource base” if we want to convince them, she says. 

McGlade is also quick to contend the widely shared idea that the EU is a leader in sustainable development since it took the lead in fighting climate change. The Gothenburg strategy, she says, “presents a much more challenging set of targets across the whole set of resources, not just simply in greenhouse gas emissions”. And she adds that China, for example, is “a lot further down the road in sustainable development thinking than many countries are within Europe”.

But at the end of the day, she says “there has got to be a recognition that Europe has to face up to some choices”.  Pointing to an intensification of land use on an imaginary European map – whether for agriculture, urban development or transport infrastructure – McGlade says not all of the aspirations under the Lisbon agenda can be met at the same time. 

“It’s like a time bomb waiting to go off,” she warns, pointing to the next question: “Can we do with or without some of the other [policies]?”

Read the full interview.

  • Europäische Umweltagentur (EUA):Website

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