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Last modified: 01 November 2012
With a trillion Euros at stake in the EU budget negotiations, arguments about the overall sum are in great danger of missing a more crucial point; say the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and the Institute of European Environmental Policy (IEEP). In a letter to the Prime Minister today[i] [1 November], all three charities urge him to focus on the quality of the spending, and ensure a high priority for the UK’s environmental ambitions as part of the overarching objective of value for money for the UK.
Dr Mike Clarke, the RSPB’s chief executive, said: “The EU budget is a large sum of public money which must make a big difference to genuine public goods. At this time of economic and ecological crises it should protect wildlife and provide a vital stimulus for low carbon green growth, benefitting our environment and economy. We have urged Mr Cameron to spend this taxpayers’ money the best way he can to benefit the lives of European citizens and the environment.”
Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, added: “We’ve urged the Prime Minister to fight for a budget that delivers desperately needed low carbon green growth, tackles our economic crisis and climate change together, and improves the environment for all. Our red line is that Europe must spend less on direct farming subsidies and more on supporting those farmers and land managers who help to provide a healthy countryside full of wildlife, ensure clean water and buffer us against droughts and floods. Our rural economy depends on them. It’s better spending we want, not more money.”
David Baldock, Executive Director of IEEP said: “This debate must not lose track of the primary issue, which is about spending Europe’s budget sensibly. Size is not the only thing that matters here. With around a trillion Euros to allocate, Europe could deliver a significant improvement to our economy and natural environment, but the old subsidies for farmers and carbon intensive growth must be reformed.”
[i]Letter to David Cameron:
1st November 2012
Dear Prime Minister,
As you develop the UK’s negotiating position on the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), we urge you to ensure a high priority for the UK’s environmental ambitions as part of your overarching objective of value for money for UK taxpayers. We recognise your red lines at a time of austerity, and appreciate the pressure from Westminster. With one trillion Euros at stake, we advocate not more but better spending.
The EU budget is public money which must support the provision of genuine public goods. We therefore urge you to resist pressures to protect Pillar One of the Common Agricultural Policy at the expense of Pillar Two. The second pillar provides significant support for sustainable farming through agri-environment schemes that help to protect and enhance wildlife and other natural resources, thereby 'future-proofing' farming and creating opportunities for public enjoyment of the countryside.
A reduced agri-environment budget could jeopardise the UK Government’s ambitions for the rural economy as outlined in the Natural Environment White Paper. Our rural economy depends on a healthy environment with agri-environment schemes playing a key role in protecting and enhancing the countryside. Such schemes represent very good use of UK taxpayers’ money, attract people to visit the countryside where they spend money and stimulate rural growth. A reduced agri-environment budget would cause our rural economy to suffer.
The LIFE environment fund is another example of a good return from EU spend, which has helped the UK government to address its global commitments on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, and directly benefitted our most threatened wildlife. At just 0.2% of the MFF it is currently insufficient to meet it purposes of halting biodiversity decline and reducing damaging climate change. We urge you to increase it and highlight that Germany, which also advocates freezing overall spend, is calling for a significant increase to 0.7%.
Finally, the entire MFF needs to focus on green economic recovery in the UK and other parts of Europe through the transition to a low carbon economy. We ask you to include a 25% commitment to climate action in the Negotiating Box of the MFF, and to be supportive of the Commission’s proposal that at least 20% of cohesion policy funds should be focussed on achieving climate mitigation objectives.
We enclose RSPB’s report on the MFF entitled “How to spend a trillion Euros” which sets out these views in more detail and has also been sent to the Deputy Prime Minister. At the forthcoming Summit in Brussels, we urge you to agree an EU budget that meets the challenges of value for money, ensuring low carbon growth and protecting our natural environment.
Chief Executive, RSPB
Executive Director, Institute for European Environmental Policy
Stephanie Hilborne OBE
Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts
Cc Greg Clark, Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Cc Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment
Cc David Lidington, Minister for Europe
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