The European Commission’s strategy to reduce regulatory red tape risks reversing important environmental policies, according to a group of leading European NGOs.
The EC’s REFIT initiative, launched earlier this month, is an effort to simplify European legislation, in response to concerns that businesses face too many costly requirements and accusations that the European Union interferes in people’s daily lives. According to the EC’s own estimate, 74% of Europeans think the EU generates too much red tape.
However, a group of NGOs, including Greenpeace, Climate Action Network Europe and WWF European Policy Office, has written to European leaders to express their ‘deep concern’ about the REFIT programme.
“While REFIT aims to simplify the regulatory framework, the focus chosen by the Commission risks accelerating a rollback in environmental legislation and policy in Europe,” they wrote, ahead of a Council summit on innovation due to take place later this week.
“Environmental standards and policies to improve resource efficiency are essential tools to safeguard natural resources, and to provide economic and public health assets essential to job creation and economic development.
“Much sustainable innovation is needed to make Europe’s economy more resilient, and for our societies to operate more efficiently and within planetary limits.”
In the emailed letter, addressed to the presidents of the European Parliament, Council and Commission, the NGOs emphasised the importance of public policy as a way to prevent large companies from blocking innovations. Often larger companies are those that are doing well under the status quo, and are therefore most opposed to innovative thinking, they said.
“Politicians can create new playing fields and stimulate innovation across the board when they dare to set ambitious objectives to cut the use of natural resources and improve efficiency,” they wrote.
The groups also said they welcomed discussion on innovation, but said it needed to be viewed as a broader concept, beyond technologies, processes, science and finance.
“Innovations can be completely ‘new’, or can be developments or re-discoveries of existing or forgotten practices and techniques,” they wrote. “When innovations lead to less pollution, more resource efficiency, employment, and lessen the Union’s dependency on scarce natural resources, they are clearly in the common European interest and deserve political support.”