Call for "EU sustainability in one generation"

NGO coalition challenges EU leaders to adopt legally binding benchmarks at Helsinki summit

European government leaders should commit the EU to achieving sustainable development within 30 years when they meet in Helsinki this December, the NGO coalition the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) demanded today. The call echoes Sweden's generational sustainability policy (ENDS Daily 22 September 1997), goals for the achievement of which were approved this spring (ENDS Daily 29 April).

In order to achieve sustainability in one generation, the EEB is calling on the Helsinki summit to adopt ten legally binding "benchmarks," which are goals similar to Sweden's. The benchmarks consist of headline indicators, timetables and final targets for: air and water quality, climate change, hazardous substances, land, material and water use, biodiversity, transport and agriculture.

The EEB says the final targets should be used to set more detailed goals for different sectors and that the Helsinki summit should determine how much of the improvement burden each sector should shoulder. Approval of the benchmarks should be followed by adoption of a comprehensive sustainable development programme in 2001, the group argues.

The EEB accepts that its goals are ambitious, but says that most can be met. Among the targets are that all inland waters should have "natural chemical background values," that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by more than 75% and that the expansion of urban areas should stop "immediately".

In the transport sector, the EEB calls for a "stabilisation" of total distances travelled plus a halving of total transport energy consumption. Conceding that economic growth will remain a priority for governments, it calls for a "factor-10 decoupling" of material use and an increase in reuse and recycling rates to over 95%.

Reaching the targets will require sweeping changes in all EU bodies, the group says. It calls for European Commission president Romano Prodi to take personal responsibility in setting up a task force for sustainable development and to name a commissioner charged with overseeing the process. In addition, it says, the European Parliament should set up a permanent mechanism for monitoring progress towards the targets by all institutions.

Follow Up:
EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1090. References: "10 Benchmarks for Environmental Policy Integration".

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