EU environment ministers push for eco-efficiency

Increased eco-efficiency, new ecotaxes and abolishing harmful subsidies are the main elements of the new generation of EU environment policy advocated by the Finnish Presidency during the informal meeting of environment ministers in Turku.

During an informal council in Turku (Finland) from 14-16 July, EU environment ministers discussed a proposal of the Finnish EU Presidency to work for a “new generation of environmental policy” (see also EURACTIV 5 July 2006). In his introductory speech, environment commissioner Stavros Dimas underlined that “Europe is still very far away from a model of development that is anywhere near sustainable”.

Under the slogan “less is more”, the Finnish Presidency presented plans to promote eco-efficiency and integrate material and energy efficiency into all EU policies. Changes in production and consumption patterns are needed, according to the EU environment ministers, and these should be brought about by using economic incentives and the incorporation of environmental costs into prices. The ministers asked the Commission to adopt a Green Paper on the use of market-based instruments for environmental policies. Ecotaxes and the impact of subsidies that are harmful for the environment should be looked at in this green paper.

Conclusions of EU informal councils are non-binding, but the Turku recommendations should flow into the review of the 6th environmental action programme in the autumn of 2006.

On 13 July, the European Environmental Bureau had presented its “ten green tests for the Finnish Presidency”. “The EU has lost momentum in tackling environmental issues. We need new, strong incentives that drive the market towards sustainability, such as environmental fiscal reforms and systematic greening of public procurement, “said Bernt Nordman from the Finnish Society for Nature and Environment, one of the members of the EEB.

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