EU leaders must put citizen wellbeing first as they discuss the future of Europe at a summit in Sibiu, Romania next month, green groups have argued in a letter sent to heads of state and government.
The letter, signed by EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates on behalf of more than 150 member organizations in 30 countries, urges leaders like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron to “learn lessons from the past” as they choose a path for Europe’s future.
It argues that Europe has succeeded in protecting people from war and asks leaders to continue to protect Europeans and our environment by putting sustainable development at the heart of the EU’s work.
The groups also demand leaders deliver on the Paris Agreement on climate change, take action to save bees and other insects and ensure citizens are properly protected from dangerous chemicals.
Surveys have shown the huge support for EU action on environmental issues, with a ban on single use plastics and action to tackle toxic air pollution lauded as some of Europe’s best achievements. The letter points out that 9 out of 10 EU citizens say that protecting the environment is important for them personally and 67% would like the EU to do more.
These findings were supported by new polling released last week that shows 82% of Europeans will consider environmental issues as an important factor when deciding who to vote for in EU elections this may.
The letter highlights ongoing debates around the EU’s common agricultural policy and overall budget as opportunities to ensure healthy food, air, water and a safe climate for people across Europe. It also highlights the need to ensure a “just transition” so that new, secure, green jobs are created for people affected by the transition away from polluting fossil fuels.
Leaders are also warned that the EU has too often been “defensive rather than visionary” and that impressive commitments have not always been implemented well.
An EEB report launched this week highlights how EU citizens are still too often ‘locked out’ of environmental decision making, despite world-leading laws that should ensure public participation.