Last week, META reported on the difficulties environmental groups and citizens often face when it comes to taking part in environmental decision-making in the EU. But all is not lost! This week we take a look at five ways you CAN participate in environmental matters!
Before we start, let’s make sure you’ve got the basics covered. Do you know what the Aarhus convention is? Do you know what public participation is and what restrictions some countries are putting on the public and NGOs? If you answered NO to both or one of those two questions, we’ve got you! Have a read of our previous articles that will give you all the information you need to know about environmental justice and on the restrictions people face when it comes to taking part in environmental decision-making.
1) Public consultations
Consultations are often carried out by national governments and the EU. The aim is to gather the public’s opinion on different questions. These consultations can either be open to the general public or restricted to a particular group of people because they are expected to be the most affected by the issue. This condition can be problematic as NGOs don’t always fit in the ‘public concerned’ category, leading to them being moved aside from the debate.
In the case of Environmental Impact Assessments or Strategic Environmental Assessments, public consultations are also conducted on specific projects.
In France, a public consultation was carried out to determine if the hunting of wild geese could be extended after the 31 January – the current limitation date set in accordance with European nature protection rules. 52,000 people took part in the consultation and the majority of them pronounced themselves against it.
2) Suggest new laws!
This might come as a surprise but the EU is actually giving you and all citizens a voice to propose laws through the European Citizens’ Initiative.
To propose a law you need:
- Seven EU citizens old enough to vote, living in seven different Member States
- One law initiative
Then, your initiative needs to gather one million signatures with minimum thresholds reached in at least seven countries. The European Commission has the final word as it will decide whether or not to take action on your topic.
In 2018, the NGO ‘Compassion in world farming‘ started an initiative called ‘End the Cage Age‘. They are asking for the Commission to propose new legislation that would prohibit: cages for laying hens, rabbits, pullets, broiler breeders, layer breeders, quail, ducks, and geese; farrowing crates for sows; sow stalls, where not already prohibited and individual calf pens, where not already prohibited.
3) Get involved in your community
Decisions taken at local level have a huge influence on your daily life. Get involved in your town/city/neighborhood, there is a lot happening there!
In Belgium, several municipalities have put in place vegetarian meals for kids every Thursday. This initiative called ‘Thursday veggie day’ started in Ghent and spread across the country. Today Hasselt, Malines, Eupen, Sint-Niklaas, Bruxelles, Ostende, Evergem et Kortrijk are also participating.
You can take part in protests to show your support to causes. Freedom of protest is a right in the EU and it can be used to defend values that you care about.
‘Fridays for future’ is a great example of protest. Initiated by Greta Thunberg, it is now a global movement where young people express the need for strong climate policies. This movement is highlighting climate change in the political debate and pushing political leaders to take a stand on climate.
The European Elections are right around the corner! Take this opportunity to vote for the future you want!
If you want to know more about what the EEB is advocating for, check out our page dedicated to the elections!