Much a do about Nothing?
Today, the European Commission launched their “new” work plan for the environment. The only thing is that there is nothing much new in and it looks like the heart,or at least fight, has gone out of Europe’s environmental agenda.
I am old enough to remember that Community “Environmental Actions Programmes” meant something. They were challenging work plans jam packed with legislative proposals to make the environment a better place.
Implementation – Don’t Bring that up
Sure, everybody knew hardly any of the laws were actually implemented in practice. We have known about about since the mid 1990s. No-one took a blind bit of notice, and DG Environment continued proposing new and ambitious measures and the European Parliament and Ministers gratefully adopted them.
A New World Order?
These brave days have melted away. Reading today’s proposal hardly anything is new. There are brave and decent statements against subsidies, which I am sure the Agri lobby will kill off.
The lawyers will seemingly be awash with infringement work. But, that is only if the Commission does not stonewall complaints and dither in infringement actions. Time will only tell.
I will be interested to see how NGOs and Environment Ministers react to this proposal. They are the ones who forced the Commission to even table a new action plan.d
If you don’t want to read the 37 pages, here is a summary.
Priority objective 1: To protect, conserve and enhance the EU’s natural capital
a) The loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services are halted
and ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced.
(b) The impacts of pressures on fresh, transitional and coastal waters are
significantly reduced to achieve, maintain or enhance good status as defined by
the Water Framework Directive.
(c) The impacts of pressures on marine waters are reduced to achieve or maintain
good environmental status as required by the Marine Strategy Framework
(d) The impacts of air pollution on ecosystems and biodiversity are further
(e) Land is managed sustainably in the EU, soil is adequately protected and the
remediation of contaminated sites is well underway.
(f) The nutrient cycle (nitrogen and phosphorus) is managed in a more sustainable
and resource-efficient way.
(g) Forests and the services they provide are protected and their resilience to
climate change and fires is improved.
(a) Fully implementing the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
(b) Fully implementing the Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources.
(c) Increasing efforts, inter alia, to ensure that healthy fish stocks are achieved by
2020 at the latest, starting by fishing at, or below, maximum sustainable yield
levels as from 2015 in all fisheries, and establish an EU-wide quantitative
reduction target for marine litter.
(d) Strengthening efforts to reach full compliance with EU air quality legislation
and defining strategic targets and actions beyond 2020.
(e) Increasing efforts to reduce soil erosion and increase soil organic matter, to
remediate contaminated sites and to enhance the integration of land use aspects
into coordinated decision-making involving all relevant levels of government,
supported by the adoption of targets on soil and on land as a resource, and land
(f) Taking further steps to reduce emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus, including
those from urban and industrial wastewater and from fertiliser use.
(g) Developing and implementing a new EU Forest Strategy that addresses the
multiple demands on and benefits of forests and contributes to a more strategic
approach to protecting and enhancing forests.
Priority objective 2: To turn the EU into a resource-efficient, green and competitive lowcarbon economy
(a) The EU has met its 2020 climate and energy targets and is working towards
reducing GHG emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990, as part of a
global effort to limit the average temperature increase below 2°C.
(b) The overall environmental impact of EU industry in all major industrial sectors
is significantly reduced, and resource efficiency increased.
(c) The overall environmental impact of production and consumption is reduced,
in particular in the food, housing and mobility sectors.
(d) Waste is safely managed as a resource, waste generated per capita is in
absolute decline, energy recovery is limited to non-recyclable materials and
landfilling of recyclable and compostable materials is effectively eradicated.
(e) Water stress in the EU is prevented or significantly reduced.
(a) Fully implementing the Climate and Energy Package and agreeing on the EU’s
climate and energy policy framework for the period beyond 2020.
(b) Generalising the application of ‘Best Available Techniques’ and enhancing
efforts to promote the uptake of emerging innovative technologies, processes
and services (c) Giving impetus to the public and private research and innovation efforts
required for rolling out innovative technologies, systems and business models
which will speed up and lower the cost of transition to a low-carbon, resourceefficient
(d) Establishing a more coherent framework for sustainable production and
consumption. Reviewing product legislation with a view to improving the
environmental performance and resource efficiency of products throughout
their lifecycle. Setting targets for the reduction of the overall impact of
(e) Fully implementing EU waste legislation. This will include applying the waste
hierarchy and the effective use of market-based instruments and measures to
ensure that landfilling is effectively phased out, energy recovery is limited to
non-recyclable materials, recycled waste is used as a major, reliable source of raw material for the EU, hazardous waste is safely managed and its generation is reduced, illegal waste shipments are eradicated and internal market barriers
for environmentally-sound recycling activities in the EU are removed.
(f) Improving water efficiency by setting targets at river basin level and using
market mechanisms, such as water pricing.
Priority objective 3: To safeguard EU citizens from environment-related pressures and
risks to health and wellbeing
(a) Air quality in the EU has significantly improved
(b) Noise pollution in the EU has significantly decreased.
(c) Citizens throughout the EU benefit from high standards for safe drinking and
(d) The combination effects of chemicals and safety concerns related to endocrine
disruptors are effectively addressed, and risks for the environment and health
associated with the use of hazardous substances, including chemicals in
products, is assessed and minimised.
(e) Safety concerns related to nanomaterials are effectively addressed as part of a
coherent approach across different legislation.
(f) Decisive progress is made in adapting to climate change impacts.
(a) Implementing updated EU policy on air quality, aligned with the latest
scientific knowledge, and measures to combat air pollution at source.
(b) Implementing updated EU noise policy aligned with the latest scientific
knowledge, and measures to reduce noise at source.
(c) Boosting efforts to implement the Drinking Water Directive, in particular for
small drinking water suppliers, and the Bathing Water Directive.
(d) Developing an EU strategy for a non-toxic environment, supported by a
comprehensive chemical exposure and toxicity knowledge base and conducive
to innovation of sustainable substitutes.
(e) Agreeing and implementing an EU climate adaptation strategy, including the
integration of climate change adaptation and disaster risk management
considerations into key EU policy initiatives and sectors.
Priority objective 4: To maximise the benefits of EU environment legislation
a) EU citizens have access to clear information showing how EU environment
law is being implemented.
(b) The implementation of specific environment legislation is improved.
(c) Respect for EU environmental law at all administrative levels is reinforced and
a level playing field in the internal market is guaranteed.
(d) Citizens’ trust and confidence in EU environment law is enhanced.
(e) The principle of effective legal protection for citizens and their organisations is
(a) Establishing systems at national level which actively disseminate information
about how EU environment legislation is being implemented, coupled with an
EU-level overview of individual Member States’ performance.
(b) Drawing up partnership implementation agreements between Member States
and the Commission.
(c) Extending binding criteria for effective Member State inspections and
surveillance to the wider body of EU environment law, and developing a
complementary capacity at EU level to address situations where there is due
reason for concern, backed up by support for networks of professionals.
(d) Setting up consistent and effective mechanisms at national level for the
handling of complaints about implementation of EU environment law
(e) Ensuring that national provisions on access to justice reflect the case law of the
Court of Justice of the European Union, and promoting non-judicial conflict
resolution as a means of finding amicable solutions for conflicts in the
Priority objective 5: To improve the evidence base for environment policy
a) Policy-makers and businesses have a better basis for developing and
implementing environment and climate policies, including measuring costs and
(b) Our understanding of and ability to evaluate and manage emerging
environmental and climate risk is greatly improved.
(c) The environment policy-science interface is strengthened.
(a) Coordinating and focusing research efforts at EU and Member State levels on
addressing key environmental knowledge gaps, including the risks of
(b) Adopting a systematic approach to risk management.
(c) Simplifying, streamlining and modernising environmental and climate change
data and information collection, management and sharing.
Priority objective 6: To secure investment for environment and climate policy and get the
a) Environment and climate policy objectives are achieved in a cost-effective way
and are supported by adequate finance.
(b) Private sector funding for environment and climate-related expenditure is
(a) Progressively phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies, increasing the
use of market-based instruments, including taxation, pricing and charging, and
expanding markets for environmental goods and services, with due regard to
any adverse social impacts.
(b) Facilitating access to innovative financial instruments and funding for ecoinnovation.
(c) Adequately reflecting environmental and climate priorities in policies to
support economic, social and territorial cohesion.
(d) Dedicated efforts to ensure full and efficient use of available Union funding for
environment action, including by significantly improving its early uptake under
the Union’s Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 and devoting 20% of
the budget to climate change mitigation and adaptation through the
mainstreaming of climate action and linked to clear benchmarks, target setting,
monitoring and reporting.
(e) Developing and applying a system for reporting and tracking environment related
expenditure in the EU budget, notably on climate change and
biodiversity, by 2014.
(f) Integrating environment and climate-related considerations into the European
Semester process, where this is relevant for individual Member States’
prospects for sustainable growth and appropriate for country-specific
(g) Developing and applying alternative indicators that complement and go beyond
GDP to monitor how sustainable our progress is and continuing work to
integrate economic indicators with environmental and social indicators,
including natural capital accounting.
Priority objective 7: To improve environmental integration and policy coherence
Sectoral policies at EU and Member State level are developed and
implemented in a way that supports relevant environment and climate-related
targets and objectives
This requires, in particular:
(a) integrating environmental and climate-related conditionalities and incentives in
policy initiatives, including reviews and reforms of existing policy, as well as
new initiatives, at EU and Member State level;
(b) carrying out systematic ex-ante assessments of the environmental, social and
economic impacts of policy initiatives at EU and Member State level to ensure
their coherence and effectiveness.
Priority objective 8: To enhance the sustainability of EU cities
(a) A majority of cities in the EU are implementing policies for sustainable urban
planning and design.
(a) Defining and agreeing a set of criteria to assess the environmental performance
of cities, taking into account economic and social impacts.
(b) Ensuring that cities have information about and access to financing for
measures to improve urban sustainability.
Priority objective 9: To increase the EU’s effectiveness in addressing regional and global
environmental and climate challenges
(a) The outcomes of Rio+20 are fully integrated into the EU’s external policies
and the EU is contributing effectively to global efforts to implement agreed
commitments, including those under the Rio conventions.
(b) The EU is providing effective support to national, regional and international
efforts to address environment and climate challenges and to ensure sustainable
(c) The impact of consumption in the EU on the environment beyond its borders is
(a) Working towards the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals that: a)
address priority areas of an inclusive green economy and wider sustainable
development objectives, such as energy, water, food security, oceans and
sustainable consumption and production, as well as cross-cutting issues such as
equity, social inclusion, decent work, rule of law and good governance; b) are
universally applicable, covering all three areas of sustainable development; c)
are assessed and accompanied by targets and indicators, and d) are coherent
and integrated with the post-2015 development framework, and supportive of
(b) Working towards a more effective UN structure for sustainable development
through strengthening UNEP in line with the outcome of Rio+20, while
continuing to strive for an upgrade of UNEP’s status to that of UN Agency, and
supporting ongoing efforts to enhance synergies between Multilateral
(c) Strengthening the impact of various sources of funding, including taxation and
domestic resource mobilisation, private investment, new and innovative
sources, and creating options for using development aid to leverage these other
sources of financing as part of the sustainable development financing strategy
established in Rio, as well as in the EU’s own policies, including international
commitments on climate and biodiversity finance.
(d) Engaging with partner countries in a more strategic way. This should involve
focusing cooperation: 1) with strategic partners on the promotion of best
practice in domestic environment policy and legislation and convergence in
multilateral environmental negotiations; 2) with countries covered by the
European Neighbourhood Policy on gradual approximation with key EU
environment and climate policy and legislation and on strengthening
cooperation to address regional environmental and climate challenges; 3) with
developing countries to support their efforts to protect the environment, fight
climate change and reduce natural disasters, and implement international
environmental commitments as a contribution to poverty reduction and
Engaging in multilateral environmental processes, including the UNFCCC,
CBD and the chemicals-related conventions, as well as other relevant fora,
such as the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International
Maritime Organization, in a more consistent, proactive and effective way with
a view to ensuring that commitments for 2020 are met at EU and global level,
and to agree on international action to be taken beyond 2020.
(f) Ratifying all key multilateral environmental agreements well before 2020.
(g) Assessing the environmental impact, in a global context, of EU consumption of
food and non-food commodities and possible related responses.