EU accused of ‘exporting environmental damage’ east

A new report shows the impact of European Union member states on the planet’s ecosystems – from emissions to biodiversity loss – is felt the most outside the bloc. 

In comparison, the bulk of the region’s economic benefits linked to consumer goods and services, is being kept within the 27 countries that make up the single market. 

white red and green map

Researchers at the Universities of Birmingham (UK), Groningen (NL) and Maryland (US), as well as Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted the study, looked at 10 environmental indicators between 1995 and 2019 – ecotoxicity, greenhouse gas emissions, particulate matter formation, photochemical oxidation and biodiversity loss due to land coverage, freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecotoxicity.

Of these, seven – including ecotoxicity indicators, greenhouse gas emissions, particulate matter formation, photochemical oxidation and material consumption – had increased notably in Eastern European countries outside the EU which falling within the bloc itself. 

‘For the sake of our planet, environmental pressures and impacts from EU consumption need to decrease substantially – reducing the export of environmental damage beyond the borders of the wealthy EU states to poorer regions,’ said corresponding author Yuli Shan, associate Professor in Sustainable Transitions at the University of Birmingham.

‘The benefits of EU consumption are greater for most member countries than those outside the Union, whilst inducing higher environmental pressures and impacts for the EU’s eastern neighbours such as Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine and Moldova,’ he continued. 

‘As many super-affluent consumers contributing disproportionally to global environmental damage and resource use live in the EU, we must focus mitigation efforts on overconsumption,’ added first author Benedikt Bruckner, from the University of Groningen. 

While this report focuses on the EU’s impact on its close neighbours, the policy of exporting environmental damage is widespread in world’s wealthiest countries. Earlier this month, Air Quality News reported on a multi-billion pound investment the UK was making into a new gas facility in Mozambique, with potentially serious environmental implications. 

Image: Christian Lue


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