EU ministers and MEPs have signed into law the seventh environment action programme, setting out the bloc’s long-term policy direction for the environment and climate.

Negotiators from the EU’s two law-making bodies yesterday (20 November) brought an end to discussions that have lasted for one year.

The programme, ‘Living well within the limits of our planet', aims to push the EU in the direction of so-called ‘green growth’, economic development that places as little burden on the environment as possible.

It sets out nine policy objectives for 2020, including protecting nature and strengthening ecological resilience, boosting resource-efficient, low-carbon economic growth and addressing environment-related threats to health.

European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “We all need to realise that tackling Europe's environment and climate challenges is not only essential in its own right but is also in fact an opportunity for long-term growth and societal wellbeing.”

The same day the European Environment Agency published a report saying that the environmental stress from Europe’s demand for resources was indirectly affecting human well-being.

The EU agency backed one of the aims of the environment action programme, to integrate environment and climate legislation into different policy areas.

It also called for better spatial planning and a push towards the “green” economy, the more efficient use of resources and maintenance of natural ecosystems.

“To maintain a high standard of living in Europe, we will need to make a more fundamental transition to an economic model which meets our needs at much lower environmental cost,” Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said.

“We can see that the European environment is currently under pressure in many areas, and incremental improvements will not be enough to put Europe on the path to a green economy.”