Pope Francis's 180-page encyclical on the environment, a collection of principles to guide Catholic teaching on the issue, urges wealthier countries to change their lifestyle and energy consumption to avert the unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem. Pope Francis has called on the world’s rich nations to begin paying their “grave social debt” to the poor and take concrete steps on climate change. It reads, “The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned (…) In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future."
Seas and oceans were amongst the major issues on the agenda at 29th ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) in Suva, Fiji. These issues covered development-related dimensions of climate change, biodiversity, renewable energy, fisheries, maritime security, oil and seabed minerals. The ACP-EU JPA brought together lawmakers from across Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific as well as Members of the European Parliament to engage politically and take joint stances on a number of issues of common concern. JPA Co-Chair Hon. Fitz Jackson added, “There needs to be a recognition to the unique challenges SIDS face, which affect their long-term sustainable development.” The JPA intends to publish joint resolutions on the following issues: financing of investment and trade, including infrastructure, in ACP countries and more.
Roberto Ridolfi, Director for sustainable growth and development at the European commission's DG DevCo – EuropeAid explains the new flagship 'EU biodiversity for life' (B4LIFE) initiative, which brings together all EU cooperation activities in the area of biodiversity and ecosystems under the same umbrella framework. The B4LIFE programme aims to contribute to socioeconomic development and the eradication of poverty. Currently, 70% of the world's poor live in rural areas, depending directly on biodiversity and ecosystems for their subsistence. These ecosystem services provide livelihoods, enhance food and nutrition security, enable access to water and to health and contribute significantly to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The European Parliament Committee on Fisheries shall have a public hearing on eco-labeling of fisheries products on 16th June. Eco-labeling schemes was first addressed in the Commission Communication on the Future for the Market on Fisheries Products in the EU in 1997, and has gained momentum since the introduction of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy in 2002. Additionally, international momentum has also been created with the adoption of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) guidelines on "eco-labeling for fish and fisheries products from marine fisheries." It has been recognized however, that the recent increase in the number of eco-labeled products creates difficulties in terms of competition, trade and consumer protection policies and has put the issue back on the agenda.
Linda McAvan, Member of the European Parliament explains that the EU needs to support its words with concrete actions in order to enhance its role in the global community, especially in light of the milestone forthcoming conferences: i) the third international conference on financing for development in Addis Ababa in July, ii) the UN summit on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in September and iii) the Paris climate change talks in December. In addition to these, the European commission will also be preparing the new gender action plan (GAP) , which aims to put the interests of women and girls at the heart of our development policies.
DG Trade held a roundtable debate with a focus on the ongoing Environmental Goods Agreement negotiations for an Environmental Goods Agreement that aim to promote trade in green technologies. The green sector is of key importance for Europe: it contributes to environmental protection – clean water, air, soil, good waste management and lower greenhouse gas emissions – as well as jobs and growth in the EU. The EU is committed to achieve substantial progress in the negotiations by the end of 2015 in order to contribute to the UN climate negotiations in Paris and the 10th WTO Ministerial in Nairobi. The roundtable offered European stakeholders an opportunity to exchange views on the initiative with the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, and EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, Miguel Arias Cañete, as well as representatives of international organisations and EU partner countries involved in the talks.
Ségolène Royal, the environment minister and former presidential candidate, said developing countries are “waiting to see” what rich nations will offer them in global warming talks. In her view, climate change was not merely a question of economics, but “a matter of civilization.” Royal explained, “Developing countries are not hostile [to an agreement]; I would say that they are positive, but they are waiting to see. We have to meet their expectations.” In contrast, she added, “the financial sector has been extremely predatory on natural resources for a long time.” Currently, more than 30 countries, including the EU and the US, have submitted emissions plans to the UN. Developed countries are expected to make absolute cuts in their emissions, by 2025 or 2030, as agreed at the landmark Copenhagen climate conference in 2009. Poorer countries are required only to curb the future growth of their emissions.
Caribbean leaders advanced their policy position on climate change ahead of the 21st Conference of Parties, ( COP 21). , scheduled for Paris during November and December of this year. Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – made up of 14 independent countries – leaders were represented by the group’s chairman, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, during their latest meeting in Martinique with French President François Hollande. PM Christie explained, “For the Bahamas, which has 80 percent of its land mass within one metre of mean sea level, climate change is an existential threat.(…) The evidence of the impact of climate change within our region is very evident. Grenada saw a 300 percent loss of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as a result of one storm (…)
As the world’s biggest user and importer of biodiesel, the recent European Parliament ruling which limits the use of crop-based biofuels is a strong signal that the EU is engaged to meet its energy targets. Moreover, it also signals the end of a long running debate on the detrimental implications of biofuel demand for transport on food prices, hunger, forest destruction, land consumption and climate change. Food crops, such as palm oil, soy and rapeseed are currently being used for transport fuel. However, this ruling indicates that the EU shall proactively limit biofuel production from agricultural crops to 7% of EU transport energy, and EU member states have the option to go lower than this.
When the international climate change talks ended in Peru last December, the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a political and economic union comprising small, developing, climate-vulnerable islands and low-lying nations, left with “the bare minimum necessary to continue the process to address climate change” according to Carlos Fuller, international and regional liaison officer at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre. He explained that “The Lima Accord did decide that the Parties would continue to work on the elements in the Annex to develop a negotiating text for the new Climate Change Agreement. We wanted a stronger statement that these were the elements to be used to draft the negotiating text.”