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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Aleksei Lotman: Human Rights Part Of Discussions On Europe’s Energy Future

“The right to a healthy environment is a human right,” said Aleksei Lotman earlier today, at the start of a Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly conference on nuclear energy.


At the start of two days of discussions, the Environment Committee chairman underlined the need to strike a balance between human rights and Europe’s future energy needs.

“In principle the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs has considered the nuclear energy as a possible way to reduce our climate impact because of smaller emission of greenhouse gases compared to the fossil fuel based energy,” he declared.

“However we have always stressed the need for the highest possible caution in the management of radioactive materials. We have stressed that presently there is no universally agreed safe way of the long-term disposal of radioactive waste. We have also stressed that even if we disregard the above-listed risks, the nuclear energy cannot be considered sustainable in the long term simply because uranium fuel is not renewable.”

“In today’s international context, it is important that effective solutions be found to three inter-related tasks: energy security, economic development and environmental protection, including reduction of the green-house-gas emissions. We have tough choices to make and we do need to consider all feasible choices.”

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Full Speech

Ladies and gentlemen,


Please allow me to welcome you here in Strasbourg, on the premises of the Council of Europe, the pan-European Organisation of democracy human rights.

I am happy to notice in this room the presence of several authorities in the fields of nuclear energy and environment. I am convinced that the discussions during our conference will therefore help to develop the parliamentary work in the field of energy in all 47 parliaments of the Council of Europe member states.

Some might question the link between the Council of Europe and nuclear energy. What has nuclear energy in common with democracy and human rights? The answer is obvious: the right to a healthy environment is a human right, as has been stressed by the Parliamentary Assembly more than once. And all issues linked to the environment – including, of course, topics concerning energy – are therefore part of our field of activity.

It is not for the first time that the Assembly deals with the topic of nuclear energy. It has produced many reports in the past and has adopted a number of texts, based on the work of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs. The most recent adopted texts are:


- Resolution 1435 (2005) on Energy systems and the environment (Rapporteur: Mr Etherington),

- Resolution 1588 (2007) on Radioactive waste and protection of the environment (Rapporteur: Mr Meale),

- Resolution 1679 (2009) on Nuclear energy and sustainable development (Rapporteur: Mr Etherington, based on the work of Mr Grachev, former member of the Committee, present among us today).


In principle the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs has considered the nuclear energy as a possible way to reduce our climate impact because of smaller emission of greenhouse gases compared to the fossil fuel based energy. However we have always stressed the need for the highest possible caution in the management of radioactive materials. We have stressed that presently there is no universally agreed safe way of the long-term disposal of radioactive waste. We have also stressed that even if we disregard the above-listed risks, the nuclear energy cannot be considered sustainable in the long term simply because uranium fuel is not renewable.

It also needs to be stressed, and indeed we have done so, that development of renewable energy and energy saving are not only safer but also more cost-efficient alternative to the fossil-fuels than the nuclear energy. It is especially clear with energy saving: investing in “negawatts” is the cheapest way to reduce our ecological footprint.

In today’s international context, it is important that effective solutions be found to three inter-related tasks: energy security, economic development and environmental protection, including reduction of the green-house-gas emissions. We have tough choices to make and we do need to consider all feasible choices. Therefore I am happy - in spite of my personal skeptical attitude towards nuclear energy - to open this conference.

The goal of our Conference of today is to provide input for a future report from the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs, on the place of nuclear energy in the spectrum of the energy policy choices for the years to come in Europe. I hope our conference will be able to come up with the balanced view of the subject.

I will now invite Mr Herbert Reul, Chair of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy of the European Parliament, to speak.

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