Nature set to sink or swim? What WWF is looking for from the Sinkevicius hearing | WWF
Nature set to sink or swim? What WWF is looking for from the Sinkevicius hearing

Posted on 01 October 2019

Commissioner-designate for Environment and Oceans, Virginijus Sinkevičius, will participate in a public hearing before the European Parliament this Thursday 3 October. This will be a critical moment to assess his commitment to tackle the biodiversity and climate crises, and respond to demands from citizens to make the protection of our natural world a top priority.
What will WWF be looking for?

As an overarching issue, WWF is urging all Commissioner-delegates to strongly oppose the “One in, one out” mechanism proposed by Commission President Von der Leyen. Introducing such a principle would create a chilling effect on much needed new initiatives, undermine the ambitions of a European Green Deal, and put at risk existing standards that protect Europeans and the environment. 

On EU policies, WWF will be looking for Commissioner-designate Sinkevičius to address the following areas:
  • The adoption of a strong and legally binding EU post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy
  • Stepping up EU action against poor implementation and non-compliance, particularly in relation to the Birds and Habitats Directive, Water Framework Directive, Common Fisheries Policy and EU Regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU)
  • Ensuring Member States address unsustainable farming
  • Tackling EU driven deforestation and destruction of ecosystems around the world
  • Ending harmful fisheries subsidies which undermine EU objectives to stop fishing overcapacity and overfishing

Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at WWF's European Policy Office, said:
“This hearing will be Commissioner-designate Sinkevičius’ first opportunity to take a stand for Europe’s rapidly declining biodiversity. The current Biodiversity Strategy has been merely aspirational with no legislative teeth. Sinkevičius has the opportunity to turn aspirations into concrete actions by putting forward the first ever legally binding biodiversity law as part of the European Green Deal. The EU post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy must have legislative muscles and real power.”

Katrin Vilhelm Poulsen, Marine Policy Coordinator at WWF’s European Policy Office, said: 
“We are three months away from the 2020 deadline to end overfishing and restore the quality of Europe’s marine health, yet all available data confirm how far off course the EU is from supporting good practices at sea and effectively protecting marine biodiversity. We must hear Commissioner-designate Sinkevičius stand up for our ocean, ensuring that EU funding supports a resilient ocean and a sustainable blue economy.”

Contact:
Angelika Pullen
Communications Director
WWF European Policy Office
apullen@wwf.eu
+32 473 947 966 

More information on our policy asks: 

1) Adopting a strong and legally binding EU post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy 
The EU is not on track to meet its own target of halting biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation by 2020. The Commissioner-delegate must commit the European Commission to a legally binding EU post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy, complete with clear, ambitious targets which lay out how EU funding should be prioritised. He should also announce a legally binding large-scale restoration initiative as part of the European Green Deal, which will help Europe adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. 

2) Stepping up EU action against poor implementation and non-compliance
The EU has strong environmental legislation, much of it is poorly implemented and enforced. The European Commission is responsible for holding Member States to account when they fail to comply. WWF will be looking for the Commissioner-designate to make this a priority for his mandate, particularly in relation to the following legislation:
  • EU Birds and Habitats Directive: Although signed off as “fit-for-purpose”, these laws are poorly implemented and enforced. The Commissioner-designate must commit to stepping-up the implementation and enforcement of these laws as a fundamental tool to finally halting biodiversity loss in Europe. 
  • EU Water Framework Directive (WFD): Poor implementation and excessive use of exemptions means that Europe is not on track to have 100% healthy freshwater ecosystems by 2027. The Commissioner-designate must stand firm in the face of pressure to weaken the WFD’s high standards and ensure that all efforts go into implementing and enforcing the WFD. 
  • Common Fisheries Policy (CFP): Poor implementation has resulted in the persistence of overfishing, degradation of marine habitats and subsequent decline in marine species. In the next 5 years, the Commissioner-designate must see that additional efforts are made to restore fish stocks to abundant levels, ensure fisheries measures are applied in Natura 2000 sites and see that the Commission takes Member States to court where they are failing to uphold the rules of the CFP.
  • Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing Regulation: There is a lack of political will from Member States to enforce control and action from the Commission is sorely lacking to the detriment of operators who behave legally. The Commissioner-designate must ensure that Member States fully implement EU law, and see that the Commission closes loopholes in the Control Regulation and does not hesitate to apply infringement procedures or suspend EMFF funding. 
3) Ensuring Member States address unsustainable farming
Industrial agriculture is the leading cause of biodiversity loss and a major driver of climate change. The Commissioner-designate must show ambition and lay out plans to fully integrate environmental legislation into the farming sector and defend strong conditionality in the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

4) Tackling EU driven deforestation and destruction of ecosystems around the world
EU consumption is a key driver of deforestation and destruction of ecosystems around the world. With the Commission having recently presented its long awaited communication on deforestation and forest degradation, the Commissioner-designate must propose legislation to ensure that commodities being placed on the EU market are sustainably produced and not linked to deforestation, ecosystem conversion or violation of human rights – as part of a broader EU Action Plan..

5) Ending harmful fisheries subsidies which undermine EU objectives to stop fishing overcapacity and overfishing
Funding vessel construction and modernisation under the EMFF would undermine the objectives of the CFP, directly violate the EU commitments to implement SDG 14 and contradict the EU’s own negotiating position at the WTO. The Commissioner-designate must commit to drawing certain red lines during trialogue negotiations if the Parliament and Council insist on using the EMFF for harmful subsidies, with the Commission better incentivising research, control, enforcement and protection of the marine environment.
 
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