Sustainability

7th Environmental Action Programme

Environmental Action Programmes have, since 1971, given direction to the work of the European Commission in the environmental field. They presented a systematic approach for tackling environmental problems, reflecting fundamental elements of contemporary thinking and problem perceptions. They have set ambitions and targets, identified priority areas of work and, progressively, also elaborated on the need to integrate environmental objectives and conditions into other policies.

The 6th Environmental Action Programme expires in mid 2012. An EAP is based on a proposal from the Commission, but is nowadays subject to a full legislative procedure leading to agreement between European Parliament and Council of Ministers, so not much time is left. The negotiation process is a great opportunity for a strategic debate on the future of EU environmental policies, a debate in which not only the three decisionmaking bodies are involved, but also stakeholders can have their say.

EEB was strongly involved in the formulation of the 6th EAP programme and had a significant impact in its final formulations. The main concern of the EEB was the tendency to postpone action with focussing on thematic strategies rather than legislation, and on the absence of targets and timetables.

In 2006-2008 a mid-term review took place in which the EEB again had an active role. An assessment produced for EEB by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) early 2006, showed that the EU was not on its way to fulfil the objectives of the 6EAP, except for climate change. The review did not lead to major change in focus, except for more attention for better regulation and an initiative for a major debate (but rather ad-hoc) on “beyond GDP”.

In 2010 a final assessment was started leading to conclusions in 2011. The EEB is of the opinion that the 6EAP was important in keeping environment on the EU agenda, but that the implementation has been un-ambitious and partly a failure. The new 7EAP needs to describe in an un-ambivalent manner the environmental challenges the EU is faced with, including accelerating climate change, deterioration of our eco-systems and increasing overuse of natural resources.

The 7EAP should set the environmental framework conditions to implement a new approach to economic development, laid down in a reformulated EU Sustainable Development Strategy, and align other relevant policies with these same objectives – economic, research and innovation, industrial and employment policies.
The EAP can then be used as a measure against which the performance of the Commission can be checked, and it will also clarify what is the agreed mandate of the Commission to bring to Council and Parliament new initiatives.
From 2012, the EU should have a new Environmental Action Programme. So in 2011 the discussion really needs to start.

Read our report:

Future of EU Environmental Policy: Towards the 7th Environmental Action Programme

And our conference report:

AGM 2010 Conference report: The future of EU environmental policy

The EEB gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the European Commission, Ministry for Environment Brussels, The Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management and the Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Sea, Responsible for Green Technologies and Climate Negotiations.