Economic factors are most likely to save the environment
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Roelants du Vivier, Francois. 1989. Economic factors are most likely to save the environment. Spore 23. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/45129
Economic factors ar most likely to save the environment' Fran?s Roelants du Vivier Author of the report 'Agriculture and the Environment', which was adopted by a nearly unanimous vote at the European Parliament. Fran?s Roelants du Vivier, a...
Economic factors ar most likely to save the environment' Fran?s Roelants du Vivier Author of the report 'Agriculture and the Environment', which was adopted by a nearly unanimous vote at the European Parliament. Fran?s Roelants du Vivier, a former Green MP from Belgium, is currently president of the European Agreement on the Environment, and of the ERE, Europe Regions Environmental party which he represents in Belgium. The European Commission is more and more concerned with environmental issues. But is it possible for the 12 countries to develop relationships with the South which will respect the double imperative of environmental conservation and self-sufficiency in food? For Fran?s Roelants du Vivier good intentions simply are not enough - the inducement of economic interest has to be proffered. The environment is high on the political agenda today, and African heads of state insist on taking a personal hand in it. The affair of the toxic waste exported to the Third World a year ago has been a catalyst. Africans were shocked that their continent should be used as a dustbin, and thereby discovered that perhaps environment means more than nature reserves full of elephants. These may have their place, but they are not enough. Africa has therefore requested aid from the industrialized countries not just in terms of money, but in training. This means we can now explain the mistakes made in the past in environmental and agricultural matters, and communicate the results of our experience rather than merely the methods put into practice a quarter of a century ago. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES AFFECT POLICY DECISIONS Up till now, within Europe itself, treaties took no account of the environment. But now environmental policies included in the Single European Act will assure a high level of protection. At last the principle of environmental consideration will become part of every formulated policy. In 1986 I submitted the report 'agriculture and the Environment' as a result of which the European Parliament adopted a resolution which was quite clear on the meaning of the phrase 'environmental programmes within agricultural activity'. During the summer of 1988 the European Commission adopted the same terms as the European Parliament. But will this concern extend as far as EEC-ACP relations? To put it another way, does the EEC have any environmental demands in its common programmes with ACP countries? Politically this is something of a 'hot potato'. Some of us, both in the European Parliament and the European Commission, fervently advocate a directive pushing fore study which would gauge the impact of EEC programmes on fhe environment of the Third World. Obviously the sovereignty of the partner states is something that cannot easily be set aside, but it is hard to see why what applies within the Community should not do so outside as well. Why should it be that these 'double standard' politics which we condemn elsewhere are applied to environmental and cooperation issues? Double standards have already caused enough trouble in trade and pesticide use. For example, a multi-national petrol company (among others) makes 7% of its profits on sales of the 'drin' chemicals to the South: aldrin, dieldrin, and endrin make up three of the 'dirty dozen' highly dangerous products whose international trade is restricted by a UN resolution. The double standard is banning them in the North and continuing to manufacture and sell them in the South. It would serve us right in the North if we got the effects of this trade landing straight back on our dinner plates. So, even from a purely selfish point of view, it is no longer in our interests to export these pesticides and it is intolerable that we continue to do so. Much the same sort of standard is seen at work in the exports of toxic wastes. Italy has been the only country to ban them. THE LAW ALONE CANNOT STOP ABUSE The law alone cannot stop these abuses, and more persuasive reasons must be sought elsewhere. I advocate commercial pressures on agriculture and the environment, and the Greens must put pressure on the GATT negotiators. The whole spectrum of North-South relations must become part of the environment issue - not just technical questions. We can't go on developing agriculture if it is to the detriment of self-sufficiency elsewhere. The 'Brundtland Report' proved the link between economic growth and development. Self-sufficiency in the South will not come about through short-term policies, through agricultural systems which destroy the environmental balances. Industrialized countries must not inhibit the growth of developing countries. This is why we feel so strongly that aid and cooperation programmes must take account of this particular aspect. However, unlike all the 'fundamentalist' ecologists, I don't think it is possible to go back to square one and recreate some brave new world. It is the weight of public opinion and debate that brings results, even where it seems impossible -witness the affair of CFCs from aerosols which harm the ozone layer. In the same way financial pressures might also have an effect in time if we could just find away of proving that the destruction of the environment is the result of inefficiency and waste. So we must put our money on economic factors as most likely to save the ecology'. The views expressed are those ofthe author. not necessarily those of CTA.