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You are here: Home / Media / News / Lisbon goal poses choice between efficiency leap or exploiting the planet, EEA head warns

Lisbon goal poses choice between efficiency leap or exploiting the planet, EEA head warns

The European Union faces a choice between exploiting the rest of the planet or becoming dramatically more efficient in its use of resources if it is to meet its 'Lisbon strategy' goal of becoming the world's most dynamic and competitive economy, the head of the European Environment Agency (EEA) warned today.

NEWS RELEASE


Copenhagen, 24 November 2004


Lisbon goal poses choice between efficiency leap or exploiting the planet, EEA head warns


The European Union faces a choice between exploiting the rest of the planet or becoming dramatically more efficient in its use of resources if it is to meet its 'Lisbon strategy' goal of becoming the world's most dynamic and competitive economy, the head of the European Environment Agency (EEA) warned today.


Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director, was speaking at a dinner in Copenhagen to mark the Agency's 10th anniversary.


She said the Agency's analyses showed that "competing demands for space in a rapidly changing set of landscapes" already posed a major challenge for Europe, and the EU's Lisbon goal was placing even harsher demands on its land resources.


"These demands on the natural capital have spilled out well beyond Europe's boundaries. So much so that we must now face up to the realisation that to move forward on a trajectory designed to meet the Lisbon agenda, Europe will have no option other than to exploit the rest of the planet or fundamentally alter the way in which it does business by becoming dramatically more efficient in its use of land and other natural resources."


"I can only hope it will choose the latter course of action," she added.


Prof. McGlade said public trust was needed "to ensure that Europe moves ahead on the basis of informed consent, where not only the information to be used but also the source of the information can be verified."


But she noted that at the moment public trust in governmental decision-making was waning across much of Europe, whilst at the same there was "a concerted effort by particular sectors to force the direction of Europe into even more intense use of the world's natural capital through loud and seemingly scientific-based campaigns."


People's inability to check the veracity of these claims was causing unease and cynicism, she said.


"The fact that the debate (in Europe) will now need to centre not only on the economy but also on the resources required to support the economy -- people as well as natural resources such as clean air, water and soil and biological diversity - means that the (European Environment) Agency's role as an interlocutor and source of objective and reliable information and advice is even more critical," Prof. McGlade said.


"The challenge for the Agency is thus to ensure that the citizens of Europe can feel confident about what they read and hear, that they can communicate in a two-way process and that the debate about Europe's future is not a sterile debate but one that will truly reflect what is possible today without exhausting our resources for future generations."


Looking back over the 10 years since the EEA started operating in 1994, Prof. McGlade said there had been "tremendous changes" in both society and nature over the period.


"We have seen the decline in many species across Europe, across all levels of the ecosystem. We have seen an exponential rise in the demand for cars. Waste is still increasing both in per capita terms as well as overall. And in many regions the first serious signs of climate change are beginning to emerge," she said.


At the same time, there had been "tremendous improvements in air and water quality, in access to nature and a general appreciation of the importance of landscape in both the rural and urban context," she added.


The 10th anniversary dinner was held for 300 guests who have worked with the Agency or are prominent in tackling environmental issues elsewhere in the world.


Other speakers at the dinner included:

  • Margot Wallström, until last week European Commissioner for Environment and now Commissioner for Institutional Affairs and Communication
  • Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán, first Executive Director of the EEA and now special advisor to the Spanish Prime Minister on sustainable development.
  • Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, USA and Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.



The 10th anniversary celebration will continue on Thursday with a high-level conference on the theme of "environmental awareness and public participation." Speakers include:

  • Per Stig Møller, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Mariann Fischer Boel, European Commissioner for Agriculture
  • Svend Auken, former Danish Minister for Environment
  • Corinne Lepage, former French Minister for Environment
  • Dr Caroline Jackson, MEP, former chair of the European Parliament Committee on the environment, consumer protection and public health
  • Sir Kenneth Collins, chair, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
  • Dr Vandana Shiva, Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, India
  • Prof. Tim O'Riordan, Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, UK



Note to Editors


The Lisbon Strategy is a commitment to bring about economic, social and environmental renewal in the EU. In March 2000, EU leaders, meeting in Lisbon, set out a 10-year strategy to make the EU the world's most dynamic and competitive economy. Under the strategy, a stronger economy will drive job creation alongside social and environmental policies that ensure sustainable development and social inclusion.


About the EEA


The European Environment Agency is the leading public body in Europe dedicated to providing sound, independent information on the environment to policy-makers and the public. Operational in Copenhagen since 1994, the EEA is the hub of the European environment information and observation network (Eionet), a network of around 300 bodies across Europe through which it collects and disseminates environment-related data and information. An EU body, the Agency is open to all nations that share its objectives. It currently has 31 member countries: the 25 EU Member States, three EU candidate countries -- Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey - and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. A membership agreement has been initialled with Switzerland. The West Balkan states -- Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro - have applied for membership of the Agency.




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