Environmental problems don't stop at the border

12 September 2007

Environmental problems don't stop at the border

SP Member of Parliament Remi Poppe is less than impressed by this year's report from the Netherlands' official Environment and Nature Planning Bureau and is determined that next year will see a more honest 'Milieubalans'. Literally the 'environmental balance sheet', the 'Milieubalans' is in practice a report on the state of affairs as regards environmental problems in the Netherlands – and this, Poppe argues, is precisely the problem, that the report, presented on Tuesday, confined its observations to the domestic scene. "The Bureau was only concerned with the improvement of the environment in our own country," said Poppe. "But its solutions aren't solutions at all. They don't solve the problem, they merely move it elsewhere."

According to Remi Poppe, positive statistics relating to last year contained in the report can for the most part be attributed to the relocation of polluting industries and the growth in their place of generally much cleaner service sectors. Factories have moved to up-and-coming economies such as China, Brazil and India. Having relocated, however, the multinationals which own these factories simply continue to pollute the air, water and soil. "In addition to this, much of our own waste is disappearing over the border," says Poppe. "Waste processing is increasingly done outside the country and is responsible for a great deal of damage to the environment and to health. Last year poisonous waste dumped in the Ivory Coast killed fifteen people, but this is only the tip of the iceberg."

The Environment and Nature Planning Bureau affirms in its report that the Netherlands cannot in the time-scales envisaged achieve the environmental targets contained in the environmental policies of the present government. Consumers are blamed for this, because they are driving their cars more and using more energy. Yet as Poppe points out, "Measures to exclude gas-guzzlers and energy-wasteful household equipment are entirely missing from these environmental policies. If this government wants to offer a more favourable lead it should also be taking a look at its own behaviour."

From the pint of view of achieving a more sustainable and climate-conscious economy this government is simply making matters worse by its support for biofuels. Energy production from vegetable sources would reduce carbon emissions, but going over to the production of biofuels is driving up food prices "Little reason for optimism then, and little international solidarity," says Poppe. "How much hunger is our excessive energy consumption worth?"

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