The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America was a bombshell that will be commented on and written about for many months and years to come. While we are still pondering what the consequences of this election will be for the world, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Trump administration will not be a proponent of stronger environmental regulation and may even try to undermine the environmental acquis in the US.
Although Trump recently softened his stance on the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate Agreement – one of its campaign pledges – the appointments of Scott Pruitt, outspoken climate change sceptic, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, of Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobil, as Secretary of State and of Rick Perry to head the Energy Department he swore to abolish in 2012 confirm that we should not rely on US leadership for global environmental progress in the next four to eight years.
While there is little to rejoice over, this is an opportunity for the EU to step up and show that it will keep pushing for a progressive environmental and sustainable development agenda on the global stage. The recent Joint Communication of the European Commission and the EU's High Representative on International Ocean Governance is a first modest step in that direction. The Communication sets out an agenda of 50 actions to achieve “safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans in Europe and around the world”. Fifteen of these actions focus specifically on the protection of the environment, covering a broad range of issues from ocean warming and acidification to combatting illegal fishing, improving the traceability of fish, banning plastic to reduce marine litter and financially supporting the creation and effective management of marine protected areas.
But the plan falls short of ambition and coherence when it comes to providing the safeguards our marine environment so badly requires. More than the lack of new measure, the lack of a coherent long-term vision to address the current unsustainable levels of exploitation and extraction of marine resources on a global scale demonstrates a short-sightedness that the planet cannot afford. Before oceans and seas can provide the ‘growth, jobs and innovation’ the EU is dearly counting on, we need to put a stop to the over-exploitation of marine resources and work for the restoration of marine ecosystems.