As EU Green Week looks at how well EU environmental laws deliver for people and nature, the European Commission has evaluated the effectiveness of its strategic framework for action in the period 2014-2020. A Green Week session on 16 May will present lessons learnt and identify Europe’s key sustainability challenges, feeding into the discussion on the future EU environment policy.
A recently concluded evaluation of the 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) shows that this strategic framework has been a crucial governance tool for EU environment policymaking. It has created strong links to national environment strategies. The Action Programme facilitated a shift in policy-making by recognising that climate and environmental protection is a driver for green growth, a healthy planet and improved wellbeing for individuals. Under the 7th EAP, EU environment policy has developed a stronger focus on integrating the environmental dimension into other sectoral policies with a broader sustainability perspective, such as the circular economy package. Most progress was made on actions linked to the second priority objective, towards a resource efficient, low carbon economy. The consensus built around the 7th EAP has helped Europe speak with one voice in the global context of multilateral cooperation, for example, the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.
At the same time, the evaluation confirms that the programme would have benefitted from a stricter prioritisation and a dedicated monitoring mechanism. Although the 7th EAP was found to be largely coherent with the political agenda, both in Europe and globally, stakeholders found that integration of environmental concerns in other EU policy areas could have been further improved.
Looking ahead, major challenges remain, and new ones are emerging. We face a global ecological crisis as we overuse and deplete our natural capital. The world is not on track to meet the temperature objectives of the Paris Agreement. This sustainability deficit threatens our ability to meet the needs of future generations within the limits of our planet, as identified in the Commission’s reflection paper Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030. More urgency needs to be injected into addressing challenges in critical areas, such as biodiversity, air quality, mobility and food.
Halting these negative trends requires above all stepping up efforts to implement existing legislation. The Environmental Implementation Review, a 2-year cycle of analysis, dialogue and collaboration, provides tools for better implementation, in close partnership with the Member States. This year’s #EUGreenWeek is about Taking the Initiative, looking into ways how EU law can be better applied and enforced, making a direct impact on citizens’ lives.
The findings of this evaluation will inform future decisions about a successor environment action programme in line with Article 192(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The decision on the shape and content of the next EAP will be taken by the next Commission College.
Environment Action Programmes have guided the development of EU Environment policy since the 1970s, and each programme has been duly assessed to see if the objectives have been met. Its evaluation is based, among other things, on the European Environment Agency's report on the state of the environment and on a consultation with interested stakeholders. The 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) entered into force in 2014 and set out Europe’s vision for environmental and climate policy for 2050, and the policies needed until 2020. It aims to improve the state of the EU's environment and citizens' wellbeing, whilst contributing to the EU's broader objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It is fully in line with the spirit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The programme set out nine priority objectives for action: • Three thematic priorities: to protect, conserve and enhance the Union’s natural capital; to turn the Union into a resource-efficient, green, and competitive low-carbon economy; to safeguard the Union's citizens from environment-related pressures and risks to health and wellbeing. • Four so-called "enablers": better implementation of legislation; better information by improving the knowledge base; wiser investment; integration of environmental considerations into other policies. • Two horizontal priority objectives: to make the Union's cities more sustainable and to help the Union address international environmental and climate challenges. Under these nine priority objectives, the 7th EAP lists 36 sub-objectives and 60 concrete actions to be delivered by the EU and its Member States, as well as by businesses, employers’ and workers’ groups, and individuals.