Commission to press ahead with green programs, assess costs later

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s executive said yesterday the EU would press ahead with several environmental initiatives this year despite industry concern about high costs. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and his commissioners debated environmental policy yesterday, a move activists had feared could kill a series of strategies on issues such as air pollution and recycling for being too expensive. The president’s spokeswoman said the commissioners supported the strategies and Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas would start presenting them after the group’s summer break. «The Commission has decided to forge ahead and it does indeed intend to adopt these strategies,» Francoise Le Bail told a news conference after the debate. «The environment will remain a central policy subject for the Commission.» An air pollution strategy was put on hold before the debate, calling into question proposals on pesticides, marine environment, sustainable use of resources, waste prevention and recycling, soil quality and urban environmental management. Environmental groups said the delay risked damaging the European Union’s reputation as a leader on green issues. European business group UNICE has questioned whether the projected costs of the air pollution strategy alone would be worth the expected benefits. The Commission predicts the initiative will cost 12 billion euros ($14.49 billion) a year from 2020, though environment chief Dimas says the benefits, including illness prevention, would be four times that amount. Le Bail said each strategy would be scrutinized later this year, but declined to say whether costs would be cut – which environmentalists fear would weaken policies.

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