EU adopts seven-year environment strategy

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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 Poto?nik 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.”

Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement: "In order to turn the EU into a resource-efficient, green and competitive low-carbon economy, the EU needs to meet its 2020 climate and energy targets and keep on working towards reducing GHG emissions by 80-95% by 2050, with agreement of a climate and energy framework for 2030 a key step in this process.

"The Commission will further engage on this topic in order to prepare the EU for the international negotiations on a new legally binding agreement in time, but also to provide Member States, industry and other sectors with a clear legally-binding framework to make the medium- and long-term investments needed."

Commissioner Poto?nik said in a statement: "The fact that the co-legislators agreed to increase the level of ambition in quite a number of areas shows that environment and climate challenges remain priorities for the EU.

"I will work closely with the Member States, the European Parliament, regional and local authorities, business and NGOs to start implementing the 7th EAP so we can reach the ambitious goals we have set ourselves by 2020."

The Environment Action Programme, or EAP, has helped set the tenor for EU conservation efforts for 40 years. MEPs adopted a resolution on 20 April 2012 criticising the shortcomings of the sixth EAP (2002-2012) – including failure by member states to implement or enforce policies.

The seventh EAP, covering the decade beyond 2012, calls for the Commission to focus on these areas:

  • Implementation and strengthening of environmental legislation;
  • Integration of environmental objectives into all EU laws and policies;
  • Establishing a global standard for international negotiations at the Rio+20 conference and other venues;
  • Giving the plan a “clear, ambitious vision for 2050”.
  • End 2013: 7th Environment Action Programme to enter into force

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