Nine priorities for a ‘greener’ Europe by 2020
By Anne Eckstein | Wednesday 28 November 2012
“Finally!” - member states and the European Parliament will say when the Commission adopts, on 28 November, a proposal to guide EU environmental policy up to 2020. The draft decision of the Council and Parliament proposing a new environmental action programme (EAP) integrates the main objectives for sustainable development adopted at the United Nations conference, Rio+20, in June 2012, concerning climate, water management, biodiversity, marine protection, air quality, chemical products, waste and efficient use of resources, and identifies nine priority objectives for the EU.
The 6th EAP will expire at the end of December this year. Adopted in 2002 for a period of ten years, it sets out the environmental policy framework for the EU based on four main themes: climate change, nature and biodiversity, environment and health, and natural resources and waste. Not convinced of the usefulness of the new EAP, Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik has been dragging his feet on the dossier for a long time. However, faced with repeated requests from member states and the EP, he has finally given in and presented a 7th EAP - one year late - which is valid until 2020, but is embedded within a more long-term vision (2050).
The new EAP
(1) identifies nine priority objectives to be achieved between now and 31 December 2020:
1. Protect, preserve and improve natural resources in the EU (biodiversity, protection of water resources, etc)
2. Guarantee the transition of the EU towards a low-carbon economy, which is more efficient in the use of resources, greener and more competitive (energy-climate strategy), as well as the management of resources and waste
3. Protect EU citizens from pressure linked to the environment and health risks (polluting emissions, chemical products, noise)
4. Maximise advantages from EU environmental legislation (impact assessment, information, participation and access to justice)
5. Improve data that is useful for environmental policy (research, collection and analysis of data, risk management)
6. Ensure investment in the environment and climate policy; apply real prices (eliminate subsidies that are damaging for the environment, improve access to funding for eco-innovation, increase EU funds for climate action, integrate the environment and climate into the process of the ‘European semester’, etc)
7. Integrate and improve the coherence of environmental policy (integrate climate and environmental conditions into sectoral policies)
8. Improve the sustainability of European cities
9. Increase the EU’s efficiency in meeting regional and global environmental challenges (adoption of sustainable development goals and international conventions, cooperation with strategic partners).(1) The document is available at
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