Commissioner Vella: ‘For Europe, it is the planet first’

EPA/PETER KLAUNZER

Karmenu Vella, UE commissioner for the Environment speaks during a press conference during the G7 Environment Ministers meeting in Bologna, Italy, 12 June 2017.

Commissioner Vella: ‘For Europe, it is the planet first’


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In an exclusive interview with New Europe, Karmenu Vella outlined the important results of the G7 Environment Ministers Meeting in Bologna on June 11-12. The EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries also spoke about the protection of marine fauna and flora species.

New Europe: Do you think the Paris Agreement can be implemented without US participation?

Karmenu Vella: The Paris Agreement is a successful multilateral partnership between countries across the world to address a common challenge that threatens the entire planet. The EU sees the Paris Agreement and the low-carbon transition for what it is; the growth engine of their economies and the key to sustainable prosperity. The Agreement provides a lifeline, a last chance to hand over to future generations a world that is more stable, a healthier planet, fairer societies and more prosperous economies, steering the world towards a global clean energy transition and offering a transparent, long-term investment agenda. For Europe, it is the planet first.

What is the European message from this G7?

The EU is very united in our message on the Paris deal. Our point has always been since Paris that the global energy transition is under way. In that sense, it is irreversible and it would not be wise to ignore that and try to reverse it.

Do you think the development fund needs to be redesigned?

The European Union is a strong global actor. Let me clarify that we determine our agenda according to our own priorities, not in response to what other actors are doing – this applies also to the United States. We are promoting our priorities at a global level and delivering them at the European level. The 2030 Agenda, Paris Agreement on climate, the Global Strategy or our new Consensus are just a few of many examples. Especially the Paris Agreement and the global fight against climate change are among the EU’s top priorities. We are also a key provider of development assistance to support partner countries in their efforts, and will continue to deliver. The EU, together with its member states, is the largest donor of humanitarian aid and development assistance worldwide, with €75.5bn in 2016 alone. Whenever our partners choose to reduce their level of ambition, we of course regret that. But the European Union will continue to be engaged and assume leadership on global issues.

What is the EU Commission doing to protect marine fauna and flora species?

In the past few years, the European Commission has taken action on multiple fronts. We have established new environmental rules to protect the marine environment.

These include the obligation to set up marine protected areas. We have reformed our Common Fisheries Policy, putting sustainability at its heart. By 2020, all fish stocks must be fished at sustainable levels.

Last March, Mediterranean ministers from both sides of the Mediterranean Sea signed a Declaration on sustainable fisheries – concluding a process I launched one year ago. We affirmed our political will to deliver tangible action: on fisheries and other activities that have an impact on fisheries resources, on the blue economy, on social inclusion, and on solidarity between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean.

But EU action alone is not enough – it will not do the job.

Rising sea levels, eutrophication and acidification, marine litter, overfishing, temperature rise – are all negative pressures on our oceans and its biodiversity. Protecting our ocean is not the single task of any single nation. It is a global task.

Can you give us some examples of relevant initiatives?

With Sustainable Development Goal 14, the global community has vowed to protect our oceans and to use its resources sustainably. Now it’s up to all of us to make this a reality. That is why, in November, I, together with my colleague High Representative Mogherini, proposed an agenda on international ocean governance. This agenda brings together 50 measures for us and our partners around the world, to make sure our oceans are safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed.

Last, but not least, the European Union will host the fourth edition of the international Our Ocean Conference in Malta on the 5th and 6th of October this year.

This conference series brings together global ocean leaders from government, business and civil society to propose tangible action for safe, healthy and productive oceans – and to review the progress on previous commitments.

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