Over the past decades the European Union has put in place a broad range of environmental legislation. As a result, air, water and soil pollution has significantly been reduced. Chemicals legislation has been modernised and the use of many toxic or hazardous substances has been restricted. Today, EU citizens enjoy some of the best water quality in the world and over 18% of EU’s territory has been designated as protected areas for nature.
However, many challenges persist and these must be tackled together in a structured way.
The 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) will be guiding European environment policy until 2020. In order to give more long-term direction it sets out a vision beyond that, of where it wants the Union to be by 2050:
“In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.”
It identifies three key objectives:
- 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” will help Europe deliver on these goals:
- better implementation of legislation
- better information by improving the knowledge base
- more and wiser investment for environment and climate policy
- full integration of environmental requirements and considerations into other policies
Two additional horizontal priority objectives complete the programme:
- to make the Union’s cities more sustainable
- to help the Union address international environmental and climate challenges more effectively.
The programme entered into force in January 2014. It is now up to the EU institutions and the Member States to ensure it is implemented, and that priority objectives set out are met by 2020.