As the European elections approach, META takes a look at five times the European Parliament played a crucial role in pushing for better environmental laws to protect us all.
The European Parliament is an essential part of the EU’s law-making process. It can help to create rules that ensure our rights to clean air, healthy food and a safe climate by jointly adopting laws with EU governments. Once new EU environmental protections are adopted it is then up to national governments to turn words into actions through their own national legislation.
No more electric pulse fishing in the EU
In January 2019, an agreement between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council was reached to ban the cruel technique of electric pulse fishing.
The Parliament voted in large numbers to support this ban: 402 supported the ban, 232 opposed.
Marine watchers greeted news of the ban of electric pulse fishing with joy. The ban will come into force in 2021.
Voting for more climate action!
The Parliament plays an essential role in achieving ambitious EU laws, and this is particularly important when it comes to the urgent need for climate action.
In 2018, the Parliament participated in the development of a package of eight different pieces of legislation which are needed to ease and speed up the energy transition – the so-called ‘Clean Energy Package’.
In 2016, the European Commission proposed setting an objective of producing at least 27% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030. But during the negotiations that were carried out between the Commission, the Parliament and EU governments, the negotiating MEPs managed to find a majority for increasing the target and agreement was reached for a 32% minimum target.
While the final target was seen as insufficient by environmentalists and overambitious by certain coal-addicted countries, the negotiations highlighted the critical importance of the Parliament in climate negotiations.
Standing up for precious bees !
In March 2018, 86 MEPs urged the European Commission to convince EU governments to back a proposal extending a temporary ban on three controversial bee-harming pesticides.
A few months later, the Commission, supported by member states, adopted regulations that completely banned the outdoor use of the three neonicotinoids: imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam.
Pushing for energy saving measures
In the European legislative system, the European Parliament can’t draft laws from scratch, but it can make changes to proposed new laws and draw attention to subjects it considers important.
In 2015, the Parliament highlighted the important role of energy efficiency for both energy security and meeting the Paris climate agreement. Whereas the Commission and Member States initially favoured a 27% energy efficiency target, the Parliament advocated for a far more ambitious binding target of 40%.
One year later, the Commission’s energy efficiency proposal contained a binding 30% target – thanks to the Parliament advocating for more ambition.
Opposing dangerous chemicals
Chemicals used in the EU are monitored by a regulation called REACH. Substances are tested and evaluated and can be prohibited if they are found to be harmful.
DEHP (a chemical found in plastics, toys, building materials, medical products etc.) was subject to the REACH ‘authorisation’ procedure, by the European Commission’s REACH Committee – a body made up of representatives of national governments.
In 2015, the European Parliament objected to an authorisation proposals to use DEHP. The Parliament argued that alternative chemicals should be used instead of DEHP, which poses risks to reproduction and is an ‘endocrine disruptor’ (a type of chemical that interferes with our hormone systems). The objections set a precedent and are already triggering positive measures from other EU institutions.
In total, the Parliament objected DEHP’s authorisations three times, first in 2015 and then twice in March 2019.