Saving money, saving lives and creating jobs – why has the Commission withdrawn essential environmental legislative proposals from its Work Programme?

This week in Plenary we discussed the withdrawal of certain pending legislative proposals from the European Commission’s 2015 Work Programme.

In presenting its Work Programme, the Commission is setting out a list of what it will do and a timetable for the year ahead as well as identifying draft legislation to drop or put on hold.

The Air Pollution and the Circular Economy packages were among those proposals which have been withdrawn by the Commission. This means that the Commission will not bring forward proposals to the European Parliament to legislate on. Under the treaties the Commission has the sole right of initiative when it comes to law-making at EU level. During the debate this afternoon the Commission said it may still bring forward legislation in this area.

Last week, Labour MEPs attacked Jean-Claude Juncker for withdrawing these two key environment and health packages from the Work Programme.

Both the Air Pollution and the Circular Economy packages are essential pieces of legislation for the UK. From a health perspective, renewed air quality targets have the potential to save thousands of lives every year and reduce the huge burden that respiratory diseases place on the NHS.

Aside from the potential impact to the environment and health sectors, the Air Quality package and the Circular Economy package both have the potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs across Europe.

These pieces of legislation also have the potential to save billions of euros. Instead of cutting them from its Work Programme, the Commission should be looking at ways of supporting this.

Kicking these essential pieces of legislation down the legislative line will have serious implications for public health not just in the UK but right across the EU.

This decision is simply unacceptable – the Commission must stand by its promise and keep environmental and health issues to the forefront of the EU’s agenda. The best and most effective way to achieve change on environmental issues like this is to work together and this involves EU-wide legislation.

The Commission must bring forward new proposals in this field to prove it is serious about promoting progressive environmental health policy.