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Environmental crime and punishment: A new development model for the European Union

Mr. I. Paleocrassas, Member of the European Commission responsible for Environment, in a lecture delivered to the London School of Economics on 10 February 1994, sets the case for a new sustainable development model which would incorporate the environmental dimension into the ...

Mr. I. Paleocrassas, Member of the European Commission responsible for Environment, in a lecture delivered to the London School of Economics on 10 February 1994, sets the case for a new sustainable development model which would incorporate the environmental dimension into the market economy. He points to 1973 and 1978 (the energy crisis) as marking the collapse of the old development model which had served well for many decades. It has become obsolete due to new elements which have appeared in economic and social life. These include the new information society; the rapid advance of technology in all fields; rapidly diminishing environmental resources; a changed consumer attitude; and the effects of the "new worlds" of Central and Eastern Europe. To meet the challenge of these new elements, the new sustainable development model must correctly price natural resources so as to remove the price distortion between energy and labour (correcting the overuse of energy and under-use of labour). The second key element in the new model must be the correct use of technology, not as a labour-saving device in the production process, but as a means of reducing the over-use of natural resources in three ways: to produce savings in the use of natural resources as raw or secondary materials; to reduce pollution (development of environmentally friendly processes plus the control and limitation of emissions); and in the development of modern systems of waste-management (collection, purification, reuse, recycling, recovery and disposal). Clean technologies leading to the growth of the so-called green industries may prove one of the cornerstones of industrial renaissance in the European Union. Mr. Paleocrassas points out that green technology is not governed by a simple cause-effect relationship. It is the result of the interaction of three elements: environmental legislation notably in the form of future standards; changing relative prices in energy and other basic inputs; and economic incentives for directed innovation-driven pollution prevention. The combination of these elements will lead to targeted research and technological innovation within the market framework. To achieve the difficult transition to the new model will require a number of financial and economic instruments (CO2/energy tax, tax on pollution sources, financial incentives, eco-awards). Education will also play a very basic role. Legislation and regulation should continue but on a decreasing scale, in proportion with the integration of the environment into the economy. He emphasizes the strong inter-relationship between environmental legislation, advance standard setting and technological advancement and innovation. The combination of these tools with fiscal or financial incentives may bring about revolutionary changes in the environmental scene in a very short time indeed. A further planning instrument must be a European physical planning model. This will require long term effort, which must begin with a very extensive research operation which would analyse the new economic, social, technological and cultural conditions in the light of the requirements outlined above. The findings of such research should then be put together in order to develop a new model of physical planning, to lead to the sustainable human settlement of the 21st century.