French environment minister sets priorities

Voynet stresses maritime safety, greenhouse gases, hunting, nuclear transparency in New Year address

French environment minister Dominique Voynet has vowed to draw lessons from the oil pollution caused to the Atlantic coast of France when the oil tanker Erika broke up and sank in December. Ms Voynet was making her annual address to the press yesterday when she said that maritime safety and liability for pollution would be high on her list of priorities for the coming year.

The minister indicated that liability rules would have to be extended, echoing an earlier statement by European transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio (ENDS Daily 12 January) when she said, "Polluting companies will have to pay, not only for material and human damage, but also for the irreversible wounds done to nature". She added that "this will be hard work as the notion of ecological impact is not recognised by insurance companies".

Ms Voynet said a study was already underway to examine the role her ministry has played in managing the crisis and how it could be more efficiently involved in a future emergency. She regretted that, "the environment ministry is not operational on the ground," saying that the defence, interior and transport ministries had been on the front line.

Climate change is the minister's second priority. On 19 January prime minister Lionel Jospin is due to present a proposal for legislation, in particular ecological taxes, to help France meet its commitments under the Kyoto protocol. Ms Voynet said: "France will manage to meet its [Kyoto commitment] only if ecological taxation is set up".

The minister also promised to back the imminent hunting bill (see separate article today), promising a proposal on 2 or 9 February and a law by June.

Ms Voynet said that a law on nuclear transparency, already promised last year, (ENDS Daily 19 February 1999), would be drafted before July.

Finally, she said she would make proposals to the government for the creation of an agency for health and environment.

Follow Up:
{French environment ministry}, tel: +33 1 42 19 20 21.

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