Environment jeopardised by economic bail-out plans, warns WWF | WWF

Environment jeopardised by economic bail-out plans, warns WWF

Posted on 10 January 2012
James Leape, Director General of WWF International
© Ezequiel Scagnetti / WWF
Gland, Switzerland/ Brussels, Belgium/Athens, Greece – WWF has stressed the urgent need for sustainable solutions to the ongoing global financial crisis, to preserve the natural capital that underpins successful economic activity, in letters addressed to International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

In the letters, sent on January 6th, WWF emphasises that “the crisis, in addition to being grounded in mismanagement of national finances, is a reflection of a deficient economic development model built on overconsumption and a steadily increasing ecological deficit and natural resource overexploitation”.

Focusing on the case of Greece, global conservation organisation WWF highlights a series of significant environmental setbacks resulting from the economic adjustment programme for Greece approved in May 2010, co-financed by the IMF, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank.

WWF’s letters identify the following environmental problems occurring behind the headlines of the impending Greek economic and social crisis:
  • Scrapping of Greece’s ‘green fund’ and absorption into main state budget;
  • Axing of environmental permitting regulations;
  • Emphasis on large investments with questionable environmental scrutiny;
  • Post-facto legalisation of illegal developments in protected areas;
  • Hasty and uncontrolled sale of public lands;
  • Downsizing of environmental staff in public authorities;
  • Dismantling of environmental governance institutions; and
  • Questionable support going to dirty energy sources, including coal.

“During the past 15 years, WWF has repeatedly called on international financial institutions, including the IMF, to revise their lending policies and support the transition of financially troubled countries towards a development path that is environmentally and socially sustainable. This call has become more urgent as economic activity is rapidly surpassing nature’s budget”, said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.

“Now is the time for the European Commission to honour its role as guardian of the EU’s treaties and environmental policies”, said Tony Long, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office. “We call on the European Commission to expand its considerable work on sustainability – not as a separate agenda, but rather as a pillar for durable and healthy economies, even in times of financial duress.”

“The crisis in Greece is causing serious social hardship but the environment is also being hit as a result of problematic policies,” said Demetres Karavellas, Director of WWF Greece. “The Greek Government is sidelining the sustainable development agenda with the approval of the IMF, the EC and the ECB. WWF calls on the troika of lenders – the IMF, the EC and the ECB – to recognise this alarming trend and offer the necessary support, in order for Greece to plan and follow a more environmentally and socially sustainable development path. Failure to do so is seriously undermining our future.”

WWF’s letters were copied to Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank; Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council; Jean Claude Juncker, President of Eurogroup; Lucas Papademos, Prime Minister of Greece; Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament; and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark – the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first half of 2012.

For more information please contact:

Gemma Parkes
WWF International
Tel: +41 79 253 6386

Marita Panteri, Press Officer 
WWF Greece
Tel: +30 210 3314 893
Mob: +30 698 2471 724
Stefania Campogianni, Media and Communication Officer
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 (0)2 743 88 15
Mob: 0499 539736
James Leape, Director General of WWF International
© Ezequiel Scagnetti / WWF Enlarge