Euro-MPs favour new labels for animal-friendly products
A European Parliament committee has voted in favour of new product labelling to help consumers identify and choose animal welfare-friendly products.
The opinion, from the rapporteur Mr. Leif Erland Nielsen (Group Various Interests, Denmark), received overwhelming majority and follows up on previous activities of the Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in this field, which in 2007 had culminated in a set of recommendations to the European Commission, as well as a major conference.
The EESC stressed that the overall aim is to make it easier for consumers to identify and choose welfare-friendly products, which would in turn give an economic incentive to producers to improve the living conditions and treatment of animals. The Commission-led studies have indicated that the most realistic option is a labelling scheme that is voluntary, harmonised and market-driven, and consistent with the EESC's earlier recommendations. However, the EESC noted that the Commission's proposals did not specify what is required of a guarantee scheme nor list the various options in order of priority. A more concrete proposal would have had a greater use as a basis for further discussion.
Ultimately, the EESC backed the establishment of a European Network to continue the work of the Welfare Quality project and feels that a combination of the labelling scheme and a centrally coordinated network is the most appropriate of the available options, with significant and relevant input from stakeholders. EESC President Mario Sepi congratulated Mr. Nielsen on the successful vote, as the rapporteur had "long been a champion of animal rights."
Switching to the global trade scene, rapporteur Ms. Evelyne Pichenot (Group Various Interests, France) proposed to tackle international trade whilst dealing simultaneously with the pressing issue of climate change. Passed by a convincing majority, the opinion called for the World Trade Organisation to facilitate trade in environmentally friendly goods and services by reducing tariffs and other obstacles. It also advocated the easing of transfers of green technologies between the EU and its partners. Given civil society's expertise and hands-on experience, it should be closely associated to assess the impact of the EU's trade agreements, not least in the area of sustainable development, says the Committee.
The EESC urged the EU to retain its very ambitious goal of cutting its CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 and insisted on thorough assessment of the potential impact. The Committee also came out clearly in favour of cutting the air and maritime transport emissions by 10 and 20% respectively, as it is being proposed in the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"According to analyses international trade is responsible for 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. As the largest trading block in the world, the EU is responsible for fighting climate change," the rapporteur said at the debate. "Industry, which has already reduced its emissions by 10%, cannot bear the brunt alone."
In the ensuing debate, the members stressed, among others, the importance of increasing investment to promote innovation, research and development in clean technologies.