Arnaud Schwartz is a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) from the Diversity Europe group, representing France Nature Environnement, the French federation of associations for the protection of nature and the environment. He is currently one of the Vice Presidents of the NAT Bureau and his work focuses in particular on the protection of the environment.
What drives you to be an active and engaged EESC and NAT Section Member? How do you make the link with your work (and your life) back home?
I’m driven by empathy for nature, which includes human beings. And that’s probably why I’m also aware of the urgent scientific proven need of changing both our collective and individual ways of living in regard of the ongoing environmental disaster and increasing social inequalities and unrest. There’s no peace without justice and no economy on a dead planet. We strongly need to evolve towards a well-being economy making humans thrive with the rest of nature, and taking care of each other.
I could tell you what my way of living looks like, but I bet you can imagine and try it out yourself. It’s really fulfilling to align thoughts and acts.
That’s also what we do together in the about 3500 environmental protection associations gathered by France Nature Environnement, the federation I’m presiding. And of course, we do it in link with the EU-agenda as most of the environmental laws are coming from the European level!
Only if we go back to an ecological footprint of less than a planet per year, we will have a chance to see our societies becoming sustainable.
Over the years, you have been the Rapporteur of several EESC opinions related to the implementation of the EU environmental legislation. What are the biggest obstacles to improving environmental protection in Europe?
That’s right and I even had several chances to draft these opinions with co-rapporteurs coming from the employers’ group. The biggest obstacle we found was that the EU and its member states are greatly lacking political will to improve environmental protection in Europe. At least in acts. Indeed, the implementation of existing laws is very poor because this lack of will leads to a lack of specialized human and financial means. These means are needed to inform, educate, train people, but also to prevent pollution and destruction, control the application of laws, sanction the cheaters and restore a healthy environment for all living beings.
Another obstacle lies in the international unfair trade policy and rules that we are all, here and elsewhere, more and more suffering from. We have to create new political tools and rules in order to stop the race for lower environmental protection and higher social inequalities. Only if we go back to an ecological footprint of less than a planet per year, we will have a chance to see our societies becoming sustainable.
Public participation in the development and implementation of environmental policies is essential. How can civil society's role be further strengthened in this context?
In order to both achieve our environmental goals and make democracies flourish in Europe again, we have to respect the international Convention signed in Aarhus. The purpose of the Convention is to offer to the public the access to information, to justice and to participation in the decisions related to their environment. In its recent opinion concerning the aapplication of the Aarhus Convention, the EESC pointed out several ways to strengthen the role of civil society. In order to discover all of them you can read our opinion here.