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Friends of the Earth statement on EU-U.S. summit

Posted Mar. 26, 2014 / Posted by: Adam Russell

BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON, D.C. – As U.S. President Obama makes his first visit to Brussels and the EU institutions today, Friends of the Earth is demanding that environmental and health protection is put top of the agenda on both continents.

President Obama will meet European Commission President Barroso to discuss the ongoing EU-U.S. trade negotiations, energy issues and climate concerns, amongst other things.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Friends of the Earth Europe and Friends of the Earth U.S. are highly concerned that an EU-U.S. trade deal will undermine democracy [1], and safeguards that protect people and the environment. Powerful multinationals, including agri-business, are currently lobbying for the deal to lead to weaker safeguards, under the guise of 'regulatory coherence', on issues related to food and chemical safety, and GM crops.

Commenting on EU-U.S. trade negotiations, Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe said: “EU and U.S. leaders may be trading away environmental and health safeguards for the sake of big business and short-sighted interests. The trade talks could even hamper the ability of governments to protect their citizens against the risks of shale gas, GM crops and dangerous food and chemicals.”

Energy

Energy will also be one of today’s topics. The two groups are calling on President Obama to block Keystone XL, and for President Barroso to implement the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive [2] with a specific value for tar sands -- to prevent tar sands from flooding the U.S. and European markets [3]. Tar sands, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in commercial production, would undermine European climate policies on transport fuels. Concerns remain that the FQD is being weakened by the trade talks [4] -- its implementation has already been delayed and it has disappeared from the EU’s future climate plans.

"The fossil fuel industry and its shills are willing to exploit any crisis and go to any lengths in their effort to extract more dirty fuels and dismantle critical climate policies," said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S. "Rather than promoting dirty fossil fuels like tar sands and fracked natural gas, Obama and Barroso should be doing everything they can to keep these fuels in the ground and help avert climate catastrophe."

Climate

On the agenda is how the U.S. and the EU can contribute to reaching an international climate agreement in Paris in 2015. But the EU’s proposals for climate and energy targets for 2030 -- the 'EU 2030 package' -- are already dangerously inadequate according to the organisations. Last week hundreds gathered in Brussels to reject and to decry the close relationship between European Commission officials and business lobbyists and the failure to bring the urgent transition to safe and green energy [5].

Magda Stoczkiewicz, continued: “Under the guise of promoting jobs, growth and energy security, the U.S. and EU leaders are pushing a corporate-driven agenda of dirty energy and deregulation – instead of genuine solutions like energy efficiency and community-owned renewables.”

Contact:
Michelle Chan, economic policy program director, Friends of the Earth U.S., 510-900-3141, mchan@foe.org
Colin Roche, extractives campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe, (EN), +32 (0)2 893 1021, colin.roche@foeeurope.org
Sam Fleet, communications officer, Friends of the Earth Europe, (EN), +32 (0) 2893 1012, samuel.fleet@foeeurope.org

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NOTES:

[1] A controversial investor rights clause could give foreign companies the right to sue governments, threatening the ability of states and local authorities to take preventative action to protect public health and the environment. It would make it much harder for countries to ban or impose strong regulations on fracking for shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels, for fear of having to pay millions in compensation: http://www.foeeurope.org/no-fracking-way-report-060314

[2] The EU’s Fuel Quality Directive, adopted in 2009, is the only piece of the EU’s 2020 climate package yet to be implemented. Its purpose is to reduce the greenhouse house gas intensity of transport fuels used in the European Union and it should, if implemented correctly, ensure that the most greenhouse gas intensive fuels are discouraged from use in the European Union. More information here: http://www.foeeurope.org/barroso-fqd-now

[3] A recent report by the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council shows that if Europe does not act, its imports of tar sands, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, would likely skyrocket from about 4,000 barrels per day in 2012 to over 700,000 bpd in 2020. 'The tar sands threat to Europe': briefing from Friends of the Earth Europe, Transport and Environment and Greenpeace, January 2014.

[4] Powerful business lobby groups have urged the US government to include the FQD in the TTIP discussions, confirmed by the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Recent delays in implementing the FQD were hailed as a success by the big business lobby group U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

http://transatlanticbusiness.org/s/TBC-May-10-2013-Submission-to-USTR-re-TTIP-V-June-5-2013.pdf
http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/FromanWaysandMeansResponse.pdf
https://www.uschamber.com/file/7959/download

[5] EU climate plans only please polluters: http://www.foeeurope.org/EU-climate-plans-only-please-polluters-210314

Briefing: How the industry lobby gutted Europe's climate ambitions, March 2014: http://www.foeeurope.org/industry-lobby-gutted-Europe-climate-ambitions-190314

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