BirdLife Europe e-news, Vol XIII, Issue 1, January 2016
In this issue
 

Big on big things?

By Ariel Brunner
 
In my piece last January, I argued the Juncker Commission had started its journey on the wrong path, looking for solutions from the past rather than the future.

One year on, the jury is still out. Some rhetoric has changed, but suspicion remains that the EU agenda has been captured by vested interests bent on demolishing the EU environmental ambition under the doublespeak of “better regulation”. Even the devastating Volkswagen scandal doesn’t seem to have brought the badly-needed moment of reckoning, or shifted attention from the obsession with “red tape” to the need to actually get things done. 

But there are also lights of hope. The EU’s strong support to the Sustainable Development goals offers a golden opportunity for a fundamental change of course. This is desperately needed to tackle climate change and the biodiversity crisis, and can also help with other crises, from the loss of EU legitimacy and unemployment, to terrorism.

Last year I set criteria to test the EU’s commitment to sustainable development and addressing the environmental crisis. How did the Commission do?

After the initial clumsy attempt to kill the new air and waste legislation, the Commission backpedaled. The air legislation has now been tabled and is being approved (albeit mangled by the powerful intensive livestock farming lobby). When it comes to the waste law it is clear that the “more ambition” rhetoric was not matched by action but at least we are moving forward.

While some language has been softened, the Commission still seems to see deregulation as the default option. While environmental policy-making has been massively slowed down, it has been busy pursuing the REFIT programme, with little sign that the interest has shifted to serving citizens’ interests. The composition and working of the new Regulatory Scrutiny Board will be the thing to keep an eye on. Will it become just a vehicle for killing environmental initiatives? Or will it become a way to mainstream sustainable development?


Another test will be the upcoming Fitness check on Monitoring and Reporting. Who can be against streamlining? And who likes reporting obligations? The reality is that without reliable data, no policy or law enforcement is possible. In most cases today, the enforcement of EU environmental law depends more on NGO complaints than on data officially gathered. We’ll see whether this fitness check is used to ensure a level playing field and data-based policy, or if it will be misused to further erode the enforcement capacity of the Commission.
The Volkswagen scandal has brought to light what most of us knew for a long time. While the EU has world class legislation, it’s implementation and enforcement is often a shambles. The fact that car companies have been able to trick the system for years, with full government cover, is a long-running scandal. The fact that it had to fall to US inspectors to do the clean-up is an indictment of a failed system. While the Commission is scrambling to ‘patch up’ car testing, there is no indication for the moment that they intend to address the underlying problem. Long due proposals on inspections and access to justice have been quietly buried, and the erosion of the Commission enforcement apparatus continues unchecked.

A more positive story is the one closest to our heart – the Fitness check of the Birds and Habitats Directives. While the Commission has not officially broken yet with Juncker’s flawed orders to “merge and modernise” the nature legislation, the fitness check has so far been conducted in a fair, professional and transparent way. The massive evidence gathered by the Commission clearly vindicates our NatureAlert campaign – while no valid reasons have emerged for tampering with the legal text, plenty of evidence has emerged for the need toimprove implementation, crack down on law breaking, fix the broken funding system and address the main reason for our failure to reverse the decline of biodiversity – intensive farming and the perversions of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Admittedly the past year has not been easy for President Juncker: the economic crisis has no end in sight, and the refugee crisis and concerns over terrorism have been eroding the foundations of Europe. We are facing, for the first time since World War II a real possibility that Europe would turn its back on peace, solidarity and cooperation and revert to the flawed logics or beggar thy neighbor competition, nationalism, mistrust and fear that have made this continent a killing grounds in the past. Against this backdrop, Juncker and Timmermans may be tempted to focus on the “Big Things” and consider the environment a “small thing”. This would be a huge mistake.

Climate change and the collapse of biodiversity remain the greatest existential threats to our civilization. An EU that stands up to powerful commercial interests and protects the rights of its citizens is an EU people would be happier to believe in. Building a climate-compatible, nature-friendly circular economy is exactly the kind of project that can lift Europe out of an economic dead end and create the millions of jobs needed.

There is a clear “positive” agenda out there, if only they can lift their sight. And it doesn’t get bigger than that.
Looking ahead: The major battles of 2016
Shifting into higher gear against the illegal killing of birds. By Willem Van Den Bossche
How to save the world’s vultures: Start by banning veterinary diclofenac in EU. By Ivan Ramirez
What's next for EU biodiversity? Juncker’s long to-do-list to save our nature. By Sanya Khetani-Shah
From reducing bycatch to safety beyond borders: our 2016 marine goals. By Marguerite Tarzia and Bruna Campos
Is the EU’s agriculture policy ‘fit for purpose’? It all depends on the year ahead. By Trees Robijns
Designing Europe's energy system of the future in 2016: will it become a reality? By Sini Erajaa
The Red List: From conservation research to on-ground protection.
By Christina Ieronymidou
Nature laws, farming, food and invasive alien species: vital grounds to engage businesses in 2016. By Boris Barov
Events
28 January, 2016: Public hearing on 'Making the circular economy happen' by The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), Brussels, Belgium. 

March 2016: The EFC’s European Environmental Funders Group (EEFG) is exploring alternative economic models and transitions to more sustainable, fairer economies. In order for funders to better understand Civil Society Organisations' (CSO) needs, interests and capacities, and to design a framework for funders to support CSOs in positioning their strategies to catalyse systemic changes, the EFC has published a survey. Responses will be accepted until March 2016.

5-7 April, 2016: British Ornithologists' Union 2016 Annual Conference 'Urban Birds: pressures, processes and consequences', Leicester, UK. Bookings opened 1 November, 2015.

11-13 May, 2016: The European Association for Zoos and Aquaria Conservation Forum, BioParc Fuengirola, Spain. The forum is now accepting abstracts for oral presentations, workshops, round table topics, posters, short movies and documentaries.

5-10 September, 2016: 20th International Conference of the European Bird Census Council 'Birds in a changing world', University of Halle (Saale), Germany. The deadline for submitting an abstract for talks, speed talks and posters is 29 February, 2016.

1-10 September, 2016: IUCN World Conservation Congress, Hawaii, USA. The Congress is now accepting submissions for hosting a workshop, Knowledge Café session or training course at the Congress.
Jobs

Media Officer: BirdLife Europe and Central Asia in Brussels (Belgium) is looking for a dynamic, passionate, committed communications professional with media experience and strong editing skills to complete the communications team. 
Closing date: 31 January 2016.

Finance Manager: BirdLife International is looking for a qualified accountant (ACA, ACCA, CIMA or equivalent) to join our headquarters in Cambridge, UK. You will support BirdLife’s international offices and projects, including integration of overseas branch accounts into consolidated management accounts, providing support to non-finance staff on budgets, reporting to funders, accounting, systems reviews and other ad-hoc tasks. 
Closing date: 17 January 2016

Head of BirdLife International Forests Programme: We are looking for an experienced professional to lead our forest conservation work around the world. You will manage a small team based largely in the BirdLife Secretariat in Cambridge, UK, and will coordinate a larger team located in BirdLife regional Secretariat offices for Asia, Americas and Africa, as well as liaise with BirdLife Partners' staff.
Closing date: 17 January 2016

Call for tender on economics of biomass use in the EU compared to other renewables: The key objective of the research T&E, BirdLife Europe and the EEB want to commission is to critically assess the economics of the Commission’s official forecasts on the share of bioenergy in the 2030 mix and analyze the investment and operating costs of different mixes of renewable energy sources in order to meet the EU 2030 target.
Closing date: 22 January 2016 
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