Environmental Council

YMGE 2018

Letter From The Director

Hi, my name is Max Ackerman and I will be your chair for this committee! I am a sophomore at Yale University in Pauli Murray College. I am planning on studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with a certificate in Global Health.  I am involved with Yale International Relations Association as a chair for both SCSY and YMUN, and as Directors for Yale Model Government Europe. Outside of YIRA, I teach mental health classes with Community Health Educators, am a copy editor for the Yale Global Health Review, a coordinator for First Years in Service, volunteer at the Yale Farm, and work at the Yale Film Study Center. During my free time, I like to go hiking, fishing, and kayaking, as well as traveling and learning about new cultures.

I decided to chair this committee because I spent this past summer in Italy learning Italian, and am very interested in Italian government and culture. I also am passionate about the environment, and love to learn about environmental science and policy and how they intersect.

Council History

The Environment Council is accountable for environment policy decisions within the European Union. Subsets of their responsibilities includes environmental protection, resource use within Europe, and human health as it relates to pollution and other environmental ailments. On top of this, it has dealt with international issues outside Europe including global climate change. There are four meeting per year for the environmental council of the European Union. Within the EU, the Environmental Council is represented by the Commissioner of the environment and the Commissioner for climate action.

Throughout history, the duties of the Environmental council is to protect ecosystems, maintain clean air and water, insure proper waste and toxic disposal, all while maintaining a “sustainable economy”.  The council ensures that policies that are passed by the EU take into consideration environmental topics, especially in areas of agriculture, industry, transport, energy, health, and services.

Topic History

In the past, the EU has dealt with environmental goals with their Environmental Action Programs, in which they are currently on their seventh. According to the European Commision,

“Over the past decades the European Union has put in place a broad range of environmental legislation. As a result, air, water and soil pollution has significantly been reduced. Chemicals legislation has been modernised and the use of many toxic or hazardous substances has been restricted. Today, EU citizens enjoy some of the best water quality in the world and over 18% of EU's territory has been designated as protected areas for nature. However, many challenges persist and these must be tackled together in a structured way.”

Previously, the EU has focused their efforts on the use of the European Union’s natural resources. They focused on preservation, conservation, and sustainable use. This is where the Environmental Action Programs have come in to place to create plans for countries to follow in order to accomplish their environmental goals. They attempted to begin to change the outlook on sustainability to a more global focal point.  Programs in the past also centered around “reduction of ozone depleting substances, emissions of heavy metals and sulphur dioxide, improvements in approaches to nature protection, surface water quality, industry-related risks and waste”.

Beforehand, Environmental Action Programs included definitions of what sustainability meant such as: “to maintain the overall quality of life, to maintain continuing access to natural resources, to avoid lasting environmental damage, to consider as sustainable a development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” An example of the 5th Environmental Program in 1993, focused on two initiatives: to integrate environmental awareness into all policy made by the European Union, and to replace the “command and control” strategy for governmental change with a plan that includes sharing responsibility between large factors such as the government, the public, and the industry sector.

Current Situation

Writing is a medium of communication that represents The main topics that are being focused on by the current Austrian President is to work on the circular economy and eco-innovation. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy is,

“Looking beyond the current take-make-dispose extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles: design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, regenerate natural systems.”

The purpose of a circular economy is to restore the general health of the economy in a sustainable manor. It deals with economics on a micro as well as macro scale, focusing on the relationship between the big and small such as corporations and small businesses, society and the individual, and a global vs local outlook. The main goal is once the health is restored, social and environmental benefits will be created as a result.

This model defines the difference between a biological cycle and a technical cycle. Biological cycling focuses on consumption such as food consumption and degradable consumption such as materials like wood and cotton. These items are fed back into the system through processes like composting and degradation, that creates things like new soil to produce more. Technical cycles, on the other hand, focuses on ways to “recover and restore resources” through “reuse, repair, remanufacture, and recycling.”

Currently, the EU is using this model to figure out solutions to the global waste problem, especially in regards to plastic use, in order to minimize the amount of plastic waste that adds to pollution in waterways. They are also using this model to relate together chemical waste and chemical production in a sustainable manner.

Eco-innovation is a program launched by the European Union in 2008, formed as a branch of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, and is still in effect. The Eco-innovation initiative is a cross-cutting programme that supports eco-innovative projects, which aim at the prevention or the reduction of environmental impacts or which contribute to the optimal use of resources.The general purpose of this initiative is to bring together current environmental research and the market. It helps bridge the gap for new technical innovations and ideas to go into real effect for the market. It was a dual benefit system: on one side it helps the EU reach its environmental goals, and on the other side it also helps with a global economic growth.

Within the program, it focuses on mitigating the anthropogenic environmental impact and creating ideas on how to responsibly use resources. Examples of focuses under this would be increase the popularity of the recycling of materials, reducing CO2 emissions, and efficient resource use. However, there are five main tactics to this initiative including: “Materials recycling and recycling processes, Sustainable building products, Food and drink sector, Water efficiency, treatment and distribution, Greening business.” The program wants to focus their efforts on new ideas that can be used across the EU, as well as initiatives that are viable for funding and can survive long-term.

Eco-innovation is said to be one of the foremost programs within the EU to stabilize the global economy and strengthening Europe’s economy while simultaneously overcoming the prominent sustainability dilemmas that we are currently facing. “According to an OECD study, goods and services provided by eco-industries are estimated to represent around 2.5 % of the EU GDP.” (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eco-innovation/discover/programme/index_en.htm) This initiative is currently being managed by the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, or EASME, while being spearheaded by the Director-General the Environmental sector of the European Commission. In addition, the initiative is part of the EU’s Competitiveness and and Innovation Framework Program, or CIP.

Currently, the eco-innovation programs are eligible for all countries of the EU alongside Iceland, Liechtenstein, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Israel, Serbia, and Turkey.

Questions to Consider

What would you consider to be sustainability?

  • What are current tactics used outside the EU to insure sustainable use of resources that the EU could use?

  • Has eco-innovation been shown to be successful within EU Politics?

  • Is circular economics a practical model for a global economy?

  • In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues relating to the environment? Should sustainability remain a focal point?

  • How can the EU work with other countries to help meet their own environmental goals?

  • Is the current Environmental Action Program sustainable and practical on a macro scale?

  • Should the EU focus on macro or micro problems in order to do more for the greater good within Europe?

  • How can the EU incorporate other problems into the larger goals of the Environmental Coalition?