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EU environment ministers' response to globalisation - increased eco-efficiency

Publication date 15.7.2006 8.22
Press release -

Europe’s environment ministers believe that new forms of environmental policy are needed to meet challenges related to globalisation, and ensure that everyone around the world plays by the same rules on a level playing field. This new emphasis was outlined today at an informal meeting of EU environment ministers currently being held in the Finnish city of Turku, involving ministers from 24 countries. Finland’s Minister of the Environment Jan-Erik Enestam led a discussion about Finland’s initiative for a new generation of environmental policy, which stresses the importance of eco-efficiency in resolving global environmental problems.

The environment ministers emphasised that globalisation highlights the need to use natural resources sparingly, and promote more eco-efficient production and consumption patterns. Without such developments it will be impossible to curb climate change and halt the ongoing decline in biodiversity. Using natural resources more sustainably can improve EU countries’ competitiveness in global markets and reduce Europe’s dependence on imported raw materials, while also reducing harmful environmental impacts.

The EU action plan on sustainable consumption and production will play a key role in shaping future trends. According to Enestam, one product of the action plan should be an EU eco-efficiency strategy based on targets on material and energy efficiency set through dialogues involving key actors. It is also important to promote environmentally friendly public sector purchasing policies and green technologies, while ensuring that sufficient funding is channelled into research on eco-innovations.

Financial instruments and incentives will play a major role in improving the eco-efficiency of production, and in promoting more sustainable consumption patterns. According to Mr Enestam, Europe’s environment ministers expect the European Commission to promptly issue a green paper on the use of market-based and financial instruments in environmental policies.

"It is crucial in this context to find new ways to promote the adoption of financial instruments. The ministers are looking to the Commission for a swift initiative on this issue, involving new financial instruments that will also ensure that the EU can become the world's most competitive economy,” says Enestam. “It’s equally important to abolish any subsidies that lead to harmful environmental impacts.”

The need to begin preparing for a major renewal of EU environmental policy adopting a longer-term perspective was also stressed at the Turku meeting. This new policy would be part of a wider vision of a sustainable Europe, which the European Council has recently urged the Commission and member states to build. Another key objective is to integrate environmental considerations into the EU’s trade and development co-operation policies.

New forums are needed to enable countries to work together to find ways to resolve critical global environmental problems. Important objectives in this context include the establishment of a United Nations Environmental Organisation (UNEO) and a Panel on Natural Resources to operate in the same way as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The conclusions of the Turku meeting will be widely applied within the EU this autumn, particularly in the interim evaluation of the EU’s 6th Environmental Acton Programme, and in relation to the forthcoming EU natural resource strategy and biodiversity communication.

For more information

Christian Sjöstrand, Political Adviser to the Finnish Environment Minister: tel. +358 50 5997 876
Taina Nikula, Senior Adviser, Ministry of the Environment: tel. +358 50 3056 945
Päivi Sihvola, Communications Manager, Ministry of the Environment: tel. +358 40 7574 992