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The European Union: Forerunner In Environmental Politics

1706 words - 7 pages

The European Union’s environmental policy is vast and complicated. It applies to every country under the Union’s domain and its criteria must be met for any state wishing to seek membership. The European Union was not the original forerunner in environmental politics; in fact the United States “took on a leadership role in preparations for the 1972 United Nations (UN) Conference on the Human Environment” (Kelemen). However, in the 1970s (1973 to be specific) as the US pulled away from being the environmental leader the EU emerged with it’s seven ‘Environmental Action Plans’ (EAP) (Pearce). The original aim of environmental policy was very traditional, focusing on protecting species and improving the quality of life but today the underlying aim of the policy “is to enhance natural capital, provide a resource-efficient economy and safeguard people’s health” (environment). I will first open with a brief history of the environmental policy, followed by its success and failures using concrete examples and conclude with alterations or alternatives to the policy in order to make it more successful across the European Union.
Starting with the 1972 UN Convention, environmental politics became a virus that swept across the world. The EU was subjective to this wave and began the process with six Environmental Action Programs (EAP). The first program began in 1973 and had three major points: (1) the prevention, reduction and containment of environmental damage, (2) the conservation of an ecological equilibrium, and (3) the rational use of natural resources. This was a very traditional approach and would be expanded upon in the future but at the moment it was a start for the EU. The second EAP was shortly to follow in 1977 and would only merely add on to these traditions but with an emphasis on nature protection. The EU would only see a change in the structure when they adopted the third and fourth EAP, which were “closely related to the completion of the Internal Market” (hey). The third EAP specifically “emphasized the potential risks and benefits of environmental policies to the Internal Market” while the proposed more integration within the whole production process.
At the end of the 1980s green parties were on the rise and the people of the EU were expecting more levels of environmental preferences, “thus a new approach was greatly supported by increased public concern for the environment” and the fifth EAP was adopted. The new EAP was specifically catered toward a new ‘ecological structural change’. Shortly after in 1992 the EU experienced an environmental ‘roll-back’ with the member states displaying opposition to the new approach to the environment by the Commission. In order to climb over the slump imposed by the member states the Commission and several Presidencies “launched an initiative for environmental policy integration, call the Cardiff Process” (HEY). This policy was heavily...

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