Changing perspectives, how the EU budget can shape a sustainable future

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Courtesy of Transport and Environment (T&E)

Protecting the environment and improving the quality of life for European citizens are integral aims and purposes for the European Union. Its policies and activities are mandated to be defined and implemented in line with environmental protection requirements1. EU public spending should, therefore, be in accord with those policies and objectives. The Multiannual Financial Framework (hereafter called EU-Budget), although small in relation to the annual GDP2 of the EU, is an important financial source for European investments. Its impact on development in the EU and beyond has been significant, and therefore needs a new direction to ensure that it fits with the current challenges facing Europe. There are obvious gaps currently existing in delivering European public benefits that citizens expect such as tackling climate change, promoting green jobs, or halting the decline of biodiversity and the planet’s resources.

European taxpayers’ money is not delivering what it could and should for the citizens of Europe. It is clear that the EU-Budget can do much better, and is a tool that can potentially accelerate the EU’s transition to a renewable and resource efficient society. The EU-Budget 2014-2020 is a rare opportunity to match deeds to words, and ensure that taxpayers’ scarce money is used to deliver European public goods. This report, written by a coalition of environmental NGOs, offers an assessment of the extent to which the EU-Budget is currently contributing to tackling the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and resource overconsumption.

It sets out clear recommendations for the next EU-Budget to catalyse the transition towards a just society that guarantees the well-being of citizens in a globally and fiscally responsible way, within the ecological limits of the planet. This report focuses on the expenditure of the EU-Budget and does not provide an opinion on the ongoing income debate. The report consists of three parts: the first part presents 10 guiding principles, proposed to ensure a sound EU-Budget with clear targets, improved efficiency and accountability. The second part flags the three most detrimental environmental challenges that the budget must address in order to place Europe on a sustainable development path. In the third part, it presents concrete steps for reforming the major European funding instruments and policies so that they can catalyse the transition.

The 10 guiding principles are integral to the functioning of the EU-Budget and should apply to all EU funding instruments and policies:

• Public money for public goods and ecosystem services – the EU-Budget should provide for public goods, such as the preservation of biodiversity, ecosystems, climate stability, water quality, air quality and soil quality.

• Targeted spending – the EU-Budget should supporta limited number of priorities which are clearly identified and justified.

• Coherence within and across European policies and instruments – European spending should not undermine any EU policy objectives or the effectiveness of other European policies.

• Maximising EU leverage – the EU-Budget should concentrate on projects that deliver the most public benefits at European level and reflect European priorities.

• Long term cost effectiveness – the EU-Budget should support solutions which are the most costeffective over time.

• Integrated strategy – the EU-Budget should be the result of an integrated strategy, to ensure coherence.

• Transparency – the EU-Budget should provide full disclosure of its spending in a timely and accessible fashion.

• Partnership – the EU-Budget should apply binding rules for meaningful public participation and partnership of all relevant stakeholders.

• Accountability – European payments should ensure the achievement of targets and comply with the requirements that are attached to the payment schemes.

• Environmental proofing (climate, energy efficiency, biodiversity and resource use) – European payments must be assessed, prior to implementation, to ensure that they do not produce negative effects or undermine European climate, energy, biodiversity and resource objectives.



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