By Martin Banks - 3rd July 2012
The crisis presents a real opportunity
The commission has been accused of "falling behind" in the "race" to create sustainable long-term prosperity in Europe.
The warning comes from an alliance of NGOs in a highly-critical assessment of the commission’s environmental performance since 2010.
Their report says the executive has so far acted to protect the environment "even less" than the first Barroso commission.
Speaking at a Brussels news conference on Tuesday, Jorgo Riss, of Greenpeace, said, "Unless it changes track, the Barroso II commission could have one of the worst ever environmental records."
He said the commission could use "green measures" to help address the economic downturn, saying, "The crisis presents a real opportunity to push Europe towards environmental sustainability. At present,though, this is not happening."
He accepted the crisis had commanded a "lot of attention" of late but said, "The EU is not taking the green measures that could help provide an exit strategy for this crisis."
The report assesses progress in nine EU policy fields with impacts on the environment and reviews the track record of 13 European commissioners and commission president José Manuel Barroso.
Each policy field is given a mark out of ten based on two main factors: environmental ambition and the extent of environmental issues that the commission has addressed.
Riss said, "The commission has so far lacked the courage to propose legislation for a new, sustainable economy and has continued to favour short-term fixes over long-term solutions for people’s health and the planet, said green groups.
"Despite encouraging statements on the need for a smart, inclusive and sustainable economy, the commission has so far failed to harness the potential for environmental policies to create jobs, improve health and reduce energy and resource use.
"Industry lobbyists have continued to pull the strings on many political files, leading to woefully inadequate policies."
The report says that while the commission has "in some measure" recognised the environmental, health and economic impact of enduring problems linked to resource depletion, pollution and ecological destruction, "swifter action is required."
Its flagship reform proposals on EU fisheries and agriculture policies would not put an end to industrial overfishing, nor halt animal and plant extinctions, nor soil, water and food pollution from pesticides, it is warned.
"The commission therefore only scores a 3.5 out of 10 on agriculture and a 4.5 out of 10 on fisheries," said Riss.
The commission has acknowledged the economic and environmental rewards offered by clean energy and transport and an end to fossil fuel subsidies but its "mixed record" on energy policy has "not delivered clear measures."
The report says that "failure to live up to its own rhetoric" has contributed to another low score of 4.5 out 10 for energy policy.
The assessment includes a series of policy-specific recommendations for the remaining two-and-a-half years of the commission’s term that, it says, "will help Europe successfully tackle the economic, climate and resource challenges facing the continent."
Further comment came from Genon Jensen, of the Health and Environment Alliance, who told journalists that "swifter action" was needed, particularly in tackling air pollution which, she said, kills 500,000 people in Europe each year.