Environmental groups have slammed Ursula von der Leyen’s proposed “One in, one out” approach to new EU legislation describing it as the “biggest threat to EU climate and environmental action”.

European Commission President-elect Von der Leyen has been praised for putting green issues at the top of her agenda and promising a ‘European Green Deal’, but groups including the EEB, WWF and Greenpeace are now warning her approach to lawmaking risks any chance of progress in areas where increased ambition is desperately needed.

Von der Leyen has proposed a ‘one in, one out’ approach to new laws in mission letters sent to new Commissioners. She suggests that new legislation should only be made if it replaces existing rules in the same area.

Green groups argue that this approach is “nonsensical” at a time that huge additional efforts are required to prevent climate breakdown.

Patrick ten Brink, EU Policy Director at the EEB said:

“A Green Deal is an essential and positive route to tackling the double threat of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. New laws and policies can help improve the European way of life, cut emissions and help nature thrive. The ‘one in, one out’ approach that von der Leyen has proposed is unfortunately nonsensical, as laws should be decided each upon their own merit. From a policy perspective it’s the biggest threat to EU climate and environmental action.”

Ten of Europe’s leading environmental groups and networks this week issued a statement calling for ‘one in, one out’ to be scrapped and replaced with a ‘think sustainability first’ approach.

In a letter to members of the European Parliament the Green10 group warned that the principle would “not only undermine von der Leyen’s own plans for a European Green Deal, it would also put at risk existing standards that protect Europeans and the environment.”

Ten Brink said: “The new Commission clearly understands the simple truth – demonstrated by repeated polling and most recently by the European elections – that people in Europe want to see the EU do more on climate and environment. It would be a disaster if the EU is left paralysed by this arbitrary and counter-productive proposal.”

The ‘one in, one out’ rule is supported by groups that argue EU regulation places an administrative ‘burden’ on business. The current Commission under President Jean-Claude Juncker has pursued a drive for ‘deregulation’, attempting to cut laws that failed to provide ‘added value’.

Green groups say there is no evidence to support the claim that environmental legislation is a burden. They point to a special Task Force set up by the European Commission to look at how the EU could about “Doing less, more efficiently”. It concluded in its final report that there is EU added value in all areas of activity and could not identify areas to re-delegate in whole or part. In fact, it concluded that the EU should intensify its action in areas such as climate change.

The Green10 also pointed to evidence that only 3% of small and medium business have difficulties in complying with environmental legislation and that 41% already either do, or are thinking about moving to, doing more than is required according to minimum EU standards.

MEPs, who will get the chance to question Commission candidates in hearings next month, are being urged to press nominees on the issue of ‘one in, one out’.

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