Green party

European Parliament's 'travelling circus' emits more CO2 than some nations, report shows

25 April 2007

A NEW study commissioned by Caroline Lucas MEP has revealed the hugeenvironmental cost of the European Parliament having two 'seats' andalternating meetings between Brussels and Strasbourg.

The report, the first evidence-based and robust study of the climate changeimplications of running a split site arrangement, shows it produces at leastan extra 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year - hastening climatechange and undermining EU efforts to cut CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by2020, the target adopted just last month.

Dr Lucas has called for an end to the 'travelling circus' which sees theentire European Parliament move from Brussels to Strasbourg for four days amonth - at a cost of more than €200m a year to EU taxpayers.

She said: "It is simply unacceptable that so much CO2 is being emittedcompletely unnecessarily - and €200m euros is being wasted every year - onthis anachronistic travelling circus.

"This study shows the environmental costs of this unnecessary monthlymerry-go-round, measured in terms of CO2 emissions, are higher than thoseproduced by some nations - including some of the very countries most at riskfrom rising sea levels caused by climate change.

"These emissions aren't just undermining EU efforts to cut CO2 across theunion: they send out a clear signal to citizens, businesses and membercountry governments that cutting emissions isn't as big a priority asdefending the status quo."

The report, researched for Dr Lucas and London's Green MEP Jean Lambert byProfessor of Sustainable Transport John Whitelegg of the StockholmEnvironment Institute at the University of York, totals the extra carbonemissions generated every month by MEPs, staff, journalists and visitorstravelling every month from Brussels to Strasbourg and back, the 'carboncosts' of freight between the two sites, and the energy needed to maintainthe two Parliament buildings.

It reports that as well as more than €200 million euros financial cost, thetwo-seat arrangement is responsible for at least 20,268 tonnes of completelyunnecessary additional carbon dioxide emissions every year - more than someentire countries.

This figure is a conservative estimate, based on 'best case' data andestimates provided by the EU itself, and includes only transport and energycosts without examining other impacts.

Actual emissions produced are likely to be far higher, though the report hasdeliberately sought to use conservative figures to increase the widespreadacceptance of what is the first evidence-based and robust study of theenvironmental and climate change implications of running a one-seat,Brussels-based, operation for the European Parliament.

The study reports that ending the Strasbourg parliamentary sessions wouldcut the need at a stroke for 2,650 offices, a debating chamber and nearly 50conference rooms, most with full translation facilities. That could cutemissions by 3,928 tonnes of CO2 just in electricity and gas alone.

Similarly, the monthly travel of 2,000 parliamentary staff and interpreters,nearly 1,000 assistants, journalists and lobbyists, 785 MEPs, 15 lorry-loadsof trunks and documents, would be rendered completely unnecessary.

The report argues that as these emissions are completely avoidable, the EUand its member governments must agree to close the Strasbourg parliamentbuilding immediately in order to 'put its own house in order'.

It concludes: 'The Strasbourg operation imposes a very large climate changeburden. There are reasons why Parliament has evolved this way but the urgentneed to take action on climate change requires a change of plan. Not tochange historical working practice sends a very clear message to millions ofcitizens and thousands of businesses that they need not try very hard tochange behaviour if this change is inconvenient.'

The report, 'European Parliament two-seat operation: Environmental costs,transport and energy' will be launched in Strasbourg on Wednesday (April25th).

Dr Lucas added: "The arrangement dates from a 1992 agreement between thethen EU member states based on the European Parliament being a less frequentmeeting place for representatives of far fewer countries and is simply nolonger relevant in today's EU.

"Strasbourg is an important city symbolising the peace between France andGermany but this symbolism alone is recklessly hastening climate change,costing literally billions, and unnecessarily increasing the workload ofMEPs and their staff.

"If we are to cut global CO2 emissions by as much as 90 per cent over thenext few decades - necessary if we are to stave off the worst impacts ofclimate change - we need to make radical changes to the way we travel anduse energy.

"The EU itself must exercise some environmental leadership - and end the twoseat arrangement immediately."

Last year Dr Lucas joined more than a million people from around the EUsigning a petition calling for the two-seat arrangement to be scrapped.