European Union Green Plan
The European Union has made some of its greatest progress in environmental protection in the past two decades, while at the same time growing from 6 to 27 member states. Many environmental pressures have been curbed, and some have even declined. Green planning approaches are most prominent in the Netherlands and to varying degrees in other countries in Western and Northern Europe. However, the European Commission has come a long way in addressing integrated environmental concerns in a comprehensive way through treaties, legislation and regulation, as well as innovations and investments in industrial best practices in all the Member States. The Commission's 6th Environment Action Programme takes a broad look at challenges and provides a strategic framework for the Commission's environmental policy up to 2012.
The EU is increasingly seeking synergy between environment, innovation and competitiveness. It aims to support that synergy through the Sustainable Development Strategy, which was adopted in 2001 and renewed in 2006. Recently, the European Commission has adopted an integrated approach to energy (security), innovation and climate. It also has proposed a new climate change strategy aiming at 20% climate change reduction unilaterally by 2020, and 30% if others follow suit.
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Shaping the Future, Global Climate Change Regime Recognizing that global climate change is likely to have major negative global environmental, economic and social implications, and with a view to achieving the ultimate objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the European Council confirmed the global annual mean surface temperature increase should not exceed 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The effective implementation of the Kyoto Protocol's commitments and a well-functioning EU Emissions Trading Scheme are important first steps towards finding a global solution to climate change. The European Commission presented its post-2012 strategy paper in February 2005. In this paper, entitled "Winning the Battle Against Global Climate Change" the Commission did not set any new targets, but concentrated on the challenge of bringing more countries on board, including not only the U.S. and Australia, but also developing countries such as China, Brazil and India, and to include more sectors such as aviation and maritime transportation.
Cleaner, Safer Chemicals Policy The EU and its member states achieved a precautionary principle chemicals policy in December 2006 through adoption of its REACH proposal. "REACH" refers to a comprehensive system for the registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals in the EU for 30,000 chemical substances, both existing and new, produced or imported in volumes over one metric ton per year per manufacturer and/or importer. It is the instrument for improving the protection of human health and the environment through better and earlier identification of the properties, uses, and risks of a large portion of existing and new chemical substances. Recently, Parliament released a Resolution, which contains a proposal to ban mercury imports as well as exports.
REACH's banner of "no data, no market" places the burden of proving chemical safety on the manufacturer, not on the public authorities, as is the current standard. REACH accomplishes the dual goals of addressing urgent environmental demands, (including those specified in the Copenhagen Charter of 1999) and providing significant economic benefits. According to the European Commission, over a 30-year period, REACH will decrease costs to employees in the chemicals and chemicals-use industries by €50 billion through the reduction of fatal cancers. The World Wildlife Fund projects total human health benefit of up to £260 billion by the year 2020. Environmental benefits are expected to be similarly significant.
REACH requires manufacturers, not public authorities, to prove chemical safety under the carrot-and-stick banner of "no data, no market." REACH was adopted in December 2006, and entered into force in June 2007. It provides a continuum of measures designed to identify, restrict, and when necessary, ban certain uses of chemicals that threaten human health and the environment.
In the pursuit of sustainable development, REACH removes disincentives to industrial innovation by eliminating distinctions between new and existing chemicals. As an outcome, European industry is expected to "gain the competitive advantage that comes from being first to move toward cleaner and safer production and use of chemicals.
Vehicle Emissions Standards Vehicle exhaust has an impact on air quality and human health, especially in urban areas where traffic is dense. To reduce this impact, the EU has adopted catalyst-forcing standards for new gasoline-fuelled cars since the early 1990s (called Euro 1 standards) and has gradually tightened the standards in several steps: Euro 2 in 1996, Euro 3 in 2000, Euro 4 in 2005, and Euro 5 in 2008. Similar requirements were adopted for diesel cars and light and heavy commercial vehicles. In conjunction with tightening vehicle standards, fuel quality improvements were also mandated. The EU is preparing to impose stricter emissions limits on both diesel and petrol cars, limiting nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM10), which pose serious health problems. The EU is the world's largest producer of biodiesel, which accounts for about 80 percent of the total EU biofuel market. At the end of 2006, biodiesel production capacity in the EU-27 was estimated at around 8.7 million metric tones (MT). Bioethanol is the second largest biofuel in the EU, representing the remaining 20 percent of biofuel production. Bioethanol production, estimated at 1,355,200 MT for 2006 is projected to increase to 3,690,150 MT in 2008. In 2007, the European Commission proposed to introduce a binding 10% target for biofuels in transport fuel by 2020.
Food & Feed Safety The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was founded in 2002 following a series of panics over potential outbreaks in the late 1990s of BSE, referred to as Mad Cow Disease, and the discovery of dioxin in chicken feed. EFSA is an independent EU agency mandated to provide objective scientific advice on all matters with a direct or indirect impact on food and feed safety. The fundamental principles of EFSA's regulatory framework are achieving scientific excellence through transparency and openness. EFSA is responsible for risk assessment, and is distinct from European Community Institutions such as the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General, which is responsible for risk management.
Clean Water Standards Water resources have increasing significance wherever human populations are growing. The necessity of keeping water resources clean has become a major subject in the European Union. More than 50% of the freshwater bodies in the EU are polluted, which has led to the establishment of the European Union's Water Framework Directive that aims to achieve its objective of reaching "good quality" status for all European waters by 2015. At the end of 2006, Parliament agreed on measures to require EU countries to prevent hazardous substances from entering underground water used for human consumption, which will come into effect in 2009. Some of the substances include cyanide, arsenic, biocides and phytopharmaceutical substances. The draft lists a series of 41 chemicals considered dangerous to the environment and human health that would need to be eliminated from surface waters by 2015. The European Parliament has since added 28 substances that considerably tighten initial proposals made by the Commission. Read the directive here [http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32000L0060:EN:HTML]
Big Cities as Environmental Leaders London's Mayor Ken Livingstone launched his Climate Change Action Plan on February 27, 2007 in efforts to reduce carbon emissions by 60% from 1990 levels by 2025. Other large cities across the world have also taken the lead on environmental management. The C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group was also established. In addition, London's Vice-Mayor Nicky Gavron plans to spearhead decentralized generation so that every household in the city can eventually produce its own energy and cut CO2 emissions. The main policy measures include a Green Homes programme, a Green Organisations programme, a Green Energy programme, and a Green Transport programme. Read more about the C40 Large Cities Climate Group here [http://www.c40cities.org/]
After World War II, the people of Europe recognized the necessity of European integration for a free, fair, and prosperous continent built on peace. In 1946, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated that, "...We must build a kind of United States of Europe," echoing the call by French politician Edouard Herriot a decade earlier. Today's EU is the result of much collaborative effort and concrete achievements.
Ground rules for the European Union were set through a series of treaties:
- The Treaty of Paris, which set up the Euopean Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) 1951
- The Treaties of Rome, which set up the European Economic Community (ECC) and European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) 1957
The first step was taken when Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands ("The Six") set up an integration of French and German coal and steel industries under joint control. They then built the European Economic Community (EEC) based on a common market. In the 1960's, customs duties between The Six were removed and common policies on trade and agriculture were enacted.
Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom joined in 1973. At this time the EEC introduced new social, regional, and environmental policies. The introduction of the European Monetary System (EMS) in 1979 helped stabilize exchange rates and maintain solidarity. Greece joined the EEC in 1981, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986. Structural programs were introduced to reduce the economic development gap between the 12 member states. The EEC also began to play a more prominent role by signing a series of conventions on aid and trade with countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.
The founding treaties were subsequently amended, which forged strong legal ties between EU member states, and rights to EU citizens. These include:
- The Single European Act 1986, setting a timetable for completion of the European single market by January 1, 1993
- The Treaty on European Union (TEU) 1992, adding areas of intergovernmental cooperation to the existing Community system
- The Treaty of Amsterdam 1997, modifying TEU and other Acts
- The Treaty of Nice 2001, distributing power for current and future Member States
The collapse of Communism and fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 led to a reunified Germany, and democracy for the countries of central and eastern Europe. New European dynamism and the continent's changing geopolitics led to Austria, Finland, and Sweden joining in 1995.
Challenges of globalization, new technologies, and the Internet explosion brought profound economic changes along with social disruption, unemployment, rising costs of pensions, and culture shock, which led to the Lisbon Strategy of 2000. This comprehensive strategy for modernizing the EU's economy included opening up all sectors of the economy to competition, innovation, business investment, and modernizing education systems to meet the needs of the information society.
The EU 15 had just grown to encompass its new size when another 12 candidate countries requested accession to the Union. Following a bitter debate among large and small countries for a re-weighting of vote in the Council, an agreement was reached in the Treaty of Nice, 2001, paving the way for the next historical step, the fifth and greatest enlargement of the Union. In 2004, ten candidate countries joined the EU - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia - the EU 25 was born. On January 1, 2007 the EU welcomed Bulgaria and Romania, expanding to the EU 27.
There was concern that enlargement on this scale not turn the EU into a mere free trade area, and that this continent-wide union of nations work together effectively and efficiently. This led to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE), commonly referred to as the European Constitution, being developed and agreed upon by the European Council in 2004; however, France and the Netherlands rejected the European Constitution in referenda and the TCE has yet to be revised, ratified and come into force. The EU 27 includes 490 million people and may expand further as the European Council has decided to move ahead with possible membership of Croatia and Turkey. Questions remain about where to draw the ultimate boundaries of the European Union.
Overarching Environmental Plan of Thematic Strategies The Sixth Environment Action Programme of the European Community 2002-2012 provides a broad-based environmental strategic framework with economic and social aspects, and with four priority areas: Climate Change, Nature and Biodiversity, Environment/Health/Quality of Life, and Natural Resources and Waste. These priorities include seven Thematic Strategies: Air pollution, Prevention and Recycling of Waste, Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment, Soil Degradation, Sustainable Use of Pesticides, Sustainable Use of Resources, and Urban Environment.
These Thematic Strategies represent the next generation of environmental policy. Rather than dealing with specific pollutants or economic activities they work with themes and are based on a stable policy framework of long-term environmental objectives reaching to 2020. Each theme promotes eco-innovation by use of the most cost effective and least burdensome appropriate instruments to reach EU policy goals of environmental sustainability. The Themes are an important contribution to better regulation by simplifying and clarifying existing legislation and proposing new laws when necessary.
The Programme calls for a comprehensive, integrative action setting baseline for all EU countries through implementation and enforcement of legislation, approaching problems at their source, blending different approaches and instruments for efficiency and effectiveness, and promoting participation by all stakeholders. A mid-term review of the Programme with on-line stakeholder consultation ran until mid-2006, providing an opportunity to set the framework for a final evaluation of effectiveness. Learn more about the EU’s Sixth Environment Action Programme here [http://ec.europa.eu/environment/newprg/index.htm]
Polluter Pays Principle Since its adoption by the European Commission in 2002, the polluter pays principle is a cornerstone of EU policy. The Directive covers pollution of water, damage to biodiversity and land contamination causing serious harm to human health. Operators responsible for the cause of environmental damage are responsible for restoring the damage caused, or made to pay for the restoration, thus providing a strong incentive to prevent such damage from occurring. In May 2006, the European Parliament's Environment Committee voted unanimously in favor of a draft resolution to reduce the global warming impact of aviation by applying the polluter pays principle to the airline industry.
Tradeable Permits Since January 2005, 12,000 large industrial plants in the EU have had the benefit of buying and selling permits to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS). This strategy allows companies exceeding their CO2 emission targets to buy allowances from 'greener' companies. Investments in cleaner technologies can be turned into profit, and help the EU meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments.
Life Cycle Analysis LCA is a scientific approach to assess the environmental impact of products during their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to the final disposal of waste from those products. The EU's Integrated Product Policy (IPP) states that environmental impacts of products should be looked at from a life cycle perspective, and addressed at the point of the biggest impacts in the life cycle. The IPP asserts that care should be taken not to shift impacts from one part to another part of the life cycle. LCA is also the basis for the thematic strategies on Natural Resources, Waste Prevention and Recycling. In a vote on February 13, 2007, Parliament introduced targets for reuse and recycling. By 2020, 50% of municipal solid waste and 70% of waste from construction, demolition, industry and manufacturing must be re-used or recycled. In June 2007, the Environment Council unanimously decided to revise the Waste Framework Directive to particularly address the challenge of establishing a system of efficient and environmentally-friendly incineration of waste, characterized by energy recovery and cross-border trade in waste between EU member states. The European Commission has concluded that LCAs provide the best framework for assessing the potential environmental impacts of products currently available. Their project, The European Platform on LCA, is planned to provide quality assured life cycle-based information on core products and services, and consensus methodologies. The Project, which runs through 2008, includes debates through a series of studies and workshops. A handbook on best practice will be published for the public. Read more here [http://lct.jrc.ec.europa.eu/]
Extensive Collaboration Between Member Countries Producing legislative changes, management decisions, and implementing regulations requires extensive collaboration among EU member countries, between their agencies, and across disciplines to an unprecedented degree. In addition, the EU's enlargement in May 2004 has exacerbated economic and social disparities across the EU. The Cohesion Policy was created as a regional policy to strengthen the economic, social, and territorial cohesion of the EU by providing development programmes through Structural Funds which are managed jointly by Commission services, Member States, and regional authorities. The Cohesion Funds seek to help the least prosperous Member States whose gross national product per capita is below 90% of the EU-average, and finances up to 85% of eligible expenditure of major products involving the environment and transport infrastructure. A new Cohesion Policy in Support of Growth and Jobs for 2007-2013 is being developed to provide a framework for sustainable development, and to improve the lives of Europe's citizens.
Creating greater transparency is an important element of European governance that applies to all spheres of EU activity. In 2005, The European Commission adopted the European Transparency Initiative, which is intended to make EU institutions more accountable to the public by increasing openness and accessibility, and raise awareness over the use of the EU budget. A Green Paper, published in May 2006, launched a debate with all stakeholders. The Commission is committed to delivering effective policies to reconnect Europe through its citizens and make it easier for all to understand the benefits of EU membership.
Public Rights and Participation In 1998 The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) adopted the Aarhus Convention as part of the "Environment for Europe" process. The Aarhus Convention establishes a number of rights for the public, individuals, and their associations regarding the environment. Authorities at national, regional, and local levels contribute to make these rights effective. In 2005 the EU implemented the first two directives of the Aarhus Convention. The first of three "pillars" provides everyone with the right to receive environmental information that is held by public authorities. The second pillar provides for the right of the public to participate in environmental decision-making. These two directives also contain provisions on "access to justice," the third pillar in the Aarhus Convention, which provides for the right to review procedures to challenge public decisions that have been made without respect to the first two directives on environmental law.
Ecosystem Management Development and implementation of the ecosystem approach to managing human impacts on the marine environment has been adopted as a common vision in the EU. A local and regional approach to carrying out the vision includes broad stakeholder participation, reflects sustainable development bottom lines for future generations, and includes geographic management of both marine and terrestrial components of the coastal zone. Planning and management must be integrated, strategic, have clear objectives, and take a long-term perspective. Adaptive management, part of the ecosystem approach, is a flexible management practice of learning in action, requiring less stringent scientific assumptions. Adaptive management requires accurate, precise monitoring and assessment techniques using ecological indicators to provide feedback, re-evaluation, and revisions to management techniques and goals as knowledge increases. Read more here [http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/marine/index_en.htm]
Clean-Sky Joint Technology Initiative In February 2008, the European Research Commission launched a seven-year, €1.6B Public-Private Partnership to assist the aviation industry in developing environmentally friendly technology. The Clean-Sky Initiative is one of six planned joint-technology initiatives created by the Commission to avoid fragmentation of research efforts, and boost large-scale, long term investment in strategic research fields. The aviation industry hopes to develop technology allowing aircraft noise to be cut 50% and slash CO2 and NOx emissions by 50% and 80% respectively by 2020. So far, the Clean-Sky Initiative encompasses 54 industries, 15 research centers and 17 universities across 16 countries. It will be financed equally by the EU's 7th Research Framework Programme and industry funds. Aviation accounts for 4% of annual greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warning.
Structural and Thematic Indicators Monitor Progress In 2000, The Lisbon European Council set a strategic goal for the next decade for the EU to become "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion." European Heads of state take stock of the achievements in an annual synthesis report, based on Structural Indicators, which provides an instrument of objective assessment of progress made toward the Lisbon objectives. In addition, the EU Sustainable Development Strategy, adopted in 2001 and renewed in 2006, aims to reconcile economic development, social cohesion and protection of the environment. Monitoring progress toward this overarching goal is an essential part of the Strategy, and a set of indicators addressing ten themes have been developed to assess and review the Strategy. A parallel objective is to provide transparency and inform the general public about progress in attaining the commonly agreed upon objectives of sustainable development. Progress on environmental issues is closely monitored by the European Environment Agency. To this end they have developed a core set of indicators. Learn more here [http://www.eea.europa.eu/]
Energy Efficiency The European Commission and member states are turning to energy efficiency to answer the double challenge of global warming and the EU's increasing energy dependency on oil and gas from the Middle East or Russia. After a stakeholder consultation on achieving the goal of reducing energy consumption in the EU by 20% by the year 2020, the Commission presented its Energy Efficiency Action Plan in October 2006. The Plan contains a package of more than 75 priority measures covering a wide range of cost-effective energy efficiency initiatives. Direct cost of EU energy consumption could be reduced by more than €100 billion annually by 2020, with around 780 million tons of CO2 avoided yearly. The Plan will be implemented over the next six years, and can improve the EU's competitiveness, the living standards of citizens, boost employment and increase exports of new, energy-efficient technology. Empirical evidence suggests that the size of the "rebound effect," or higher consumption after energy savings are produced will be very small to moderate. The Plan contains a number of additional proposals to raise energy efficiency awareness, such as education and training, and the need for energy efficiency issues to be addressed on a global level through international partnerships.
Air Quality Environment and Health are one of four main target areas of effort named in the Sixth Environment Action Programme (EAP), "Environment 2010: Our Future, Our Choice." Despite significant improvements in Europe's air quality driven by legislation and other factors, air pollution continues to have serious human health and environmental effects. Therefore, the Commission has developed a Thematic Air Strategy under the Programme's Environment and Health target area. While overall air quality trends on the Community are encouraging, continued efforts and vigilance are still needed. The Programme's objective is to achieve levels of air quality that do not give rise to unacceptable impacts on, and risks to, human health and the environment. The Thematic Strategy establishes ambitious targets on air pollution, and aims, by 2020, to cut the annual number of premature deaths from air pollution-related diseases by almost 40% from the 2000 level, while substantially reducing airborne pollutant damage to forests and other ecosystems.
The Strategy will reduce the number of premature deaths related to fine particulate matter and ozone from 370,000 a year in 2000 to 230,000 in 2020. Without the Strategy there would still be over 290,000 premature deaths a year in 2020. It is estimated the Strategy will deliver benefits worth at least €42 billion per year through fewer premature deaths, less sickness, fewer hospital admissions, and improved labor productivity. This is more than five times higher than the cost of implementing the Strategy, which is estimated at around €7.1 billion per annum, or about 0.05% of EU GDP in 2020. Although there is no standardized way to express damage to ecosystems in monetary terms, the environmental benefits of reduced air pollution are significant. The Strategy will protect several hundred thousand square kilometers of forest and other ecosystems. Under the Strategy, the Commission is proposing to start regulating fine airborne particulates, known as PM2.5, which penetrate deep into human lungs.
Toward Cradle-to-Cradle Electronics As of July 2006, under the EU Directive on Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), producers are no longer allowed to put on the market electrical and electronic equipment containing specific hazardous substances including lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominatedbiphenyls (PBB), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE).
The most publicized aspect of RoHS is the restriction on the use of lead, which has already had a major impact in soldering, tinning and plating materials in the manufacturing of electronics. The purpose of the Directive is to arrest the fast increasing waste stream of electronic and electrical equipment and complements EU measures on landfill and incineration of waste, facilitating sound recovery and prevention of problems during the waste management phase. Restrictions on the use of these substances as well as increasing producer responsibility for collection and recycling of products have changed the way new products are designed and built.
Integrated Marine Policies To protect the deteriorating EU coastline and marine environment from further erosion, the Marine Strategy has been developed as part of a new, holistic approach to environmental policy-making through the Sixth Environment Action Program. The Strategy proposes use of ecosystem management incorporating carrying capacity guidelines for decreasing biodiversity, implementation on regional and sub-regional levels, and is based on geographical and environmental criteria. This element of spatial planning dovetails with the broader future Marine Policy objective of bolstering the EU marine economy without impairing marine ecosystems.
The principal threats to the EU coastlines are from development and urbanization, non-point oil and chemical runoff, and litter while the marine environment is threatened by climate change, pollution (including contamination by dangerous substances; from land-based sources; microbiological; oil spills as a result of accidents as well as pollution from shipping and offshore oil and gas exploration; pollution from ship dismantling; and noise pollution); the impacts of commercial fishing; the introduction of non-native (exotic) species principally through discharge of ships' ballast water; eutrophication and associated algal blooms; and illegal discharges of radionuclides.
The Strategy includes making detailed assessments and measurements to guide regulation of uses and users, and develops the knowledge base required for action under the future Marine Policy.
Energy Security A modern economy and society cannot function without a reliable energy supply. The EU clearly sees energy supply, security, and climate change as interrelated issues. The need for this integrated approach is endorsed by the European Heads of State. Two recent Green Papers [http://ec.europa.eu/energy/index_en.htm] seek to balance these different interests, along with energy efficiency. A number of options have been listed to save 20% of energy consumption by 2020 in a cost effective way through changes in consumer behavior and energy efficient technologies. These savings would allow the EU to save an estimated €60 billion on its energy bill, helping Europe achieve two fundamental goals of the Lisbon Strategy: creating more growth and better jobs, besides supporting the Kyoto commitments. Global energy demand is growing, and rising oil prices have confirmed the EU's need to diversify its sources of energy and the geographical locations from which they obtain their energy. Russia is the biggest outside supplier of oil and gas to the EU; Russia’s gas sales to the EU account for about 8% of Russian GDO while the EU gets about 24% of its gas from Russia. EU officials say relations with Russia take center stage and they will continue to depend on each other for the foreseeable future. Nuclear power contributes about 32% of its energy to electricity generation, and lobbyists say the EU should take steps to increase its share to 40%. While the nuclear industry argues that nuclear power is the energy of the future, environmentalists disagree with the financial support from Euratom for an expensive and dangerous energy source, when more than 60% of Europeans want to decrease nuclear power's contribution to energy generation.
Ambient Air Quality There are many hotspots throughout Europe that do not meet air quality standards. The European Environment Agency concluded in the Third State and Outlook Report of 2005 that despite decades of environmental policies, unsustainable development of some key economic sectors is a major barrier to further improvements in ozone air pollution. The sectors requiring a reverse in unsustainable trends include energy, agriculture, and transport.
In October 2006, European Environment Ministers reached political agreement on a new directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe. The major new element in the directive is the introduction of a binding limit value (25 mg/m3) on airborne concentrations of harmful fine dust particles, known as PM2.5, which contributes to the premature death of around 350,000 people in the EU each year. Member states should implement this limit value no later than 2015. In addition, sufficient emission control measures at the local, national, and Community level must be made in order to support the implementation of the Air Quality Directive and the attainment of the air quality objectives.
Emissions Trading Permits
To minimize the economic costs of taking steps to reduce carbon pollution under the Kyoto Protocol, EU nations created an internal market for companies to trade pollution permits.
Since 2005, industrial plants in the EU have benefited from the flexibility that comes from tradable emissions permits; adjustments must be made to ameliorate the initial over allocation of pollution permits in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). Parliament approved, by overwhelming majority, allocations for the third trading period of 2013 to 2020 with the goal of capping EU industrial emissions at 21% below 2005 levels by 2020. Read more here [http://www.euractiv.com/en/climate-change/eu-emissions-trading-scheme/article-133629]
Population Growth by Migration and Long Life Through the late 1980s, population increase in the EU-15 was mainly due to foreign migration. In the early 1990s, migration increase was mainly due to a massive arrival of refugees. In January 2007 the EU population jumped nearly 30 million overnight to 490+ million with the new accession of Bulgaria and Romania. Growing pressures on existing public finances will create a need for policy challenges. Social welfare systems and labor markets will need to reform to meet the most critical challenge - to extend working lives. Read more here [http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/een/001/article_3624_en.htm]
Uncontrolled Coastal Erosion Europe's coast is eroding naturally, but human activities are accelerating erosion through rapid development and urbanization. To meet this challenge, the European Commission operated a Demonstration Program on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) from 1996-1999 to provide information and stimulate a broad debate. A Recommendation for ICZM was adopted by the Council and Parliament in May 2002 with Member States developing national strategies by Spring 2006. In June of 2006 the Green Paper on Maritime Policy was released, giving the public one year to provide input toward a future Maritime Policy.
Agricultural Reform Food scares in the 1990s from mad cow disease, dioxins chicken feed and milk, and artificial hormones in meat reflected intensive farming practices. A series of reforms resulted, including a shift from subsidizing farmers for production to direct payments. This resulted in a drop to 36% of the EU budget, and more fair world trade. There is ongoing policy debate about the reform needs in relation to the Global Trade negotiations. The increase in research of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has led to their inclusion in 'organically' farmed products. Standards for labeling organic products allow them to contain up to 0.9% of "adventitious or technically unavoidable" GMO content. Some green groups say the laws are lax and will lead to wide contamination of organic products by GMOs. Notably, the EU is committed to preserving the organic farming sector, with 10% of the EU budget funding rural development.
Technology Technology is increasing in use by all areas of industry. In particular, the use of nanotechnology is rising in sectors such as healthcare, consumer products, information technology and the environment. The potential exposure risks associated with nano materials are relatively unknown. The EU's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENHIR) has concluded that the examination of nanotechnology needs improvement. The Commission has included nanotechnologies in their action for Europe 2005-2009, and there will also be opportunities for improvement of their regulation in the next Reach, set to take place in 2012.
Watershed Conservation The Danube River has recently been named as one of the world's ten most at-risk rivers due to dams, pollution and climate change. Since the beginning of the 19th century, more than 80% of the original floodplain along the Danube and its main tributaries has been lost. Corresponding with Europe's strict freshwater-quality standards, the EU water framework directive (2000) aims to achieve "good ecological status" for all of Europe's rivers by 2015. Wetlands continue to be at risk from development such as transportation projects. In efforts to increase awareness, a new web-based information service on water, the Water Information System for Europe (WISE), will be implemented. Read more here [http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/index_en.htm]
River Basin Management Plans 2009-2015 are in three stages of implementation, with further information available here [http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/participation/map_mc/map.htm]
Science Behind the Policies Scientific expertise and shared data are becoming increasingly critical elements in public policy. The seven independent institutes of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) provide that for the Commission and EU Member States supporting EU policy makers in the conception, development, implementation and monitoring of policies. JRC serves the common interests of Member States while being independent of special interests, whether private or national, and provides technical expertise directly and through broader networks linking universities, national institutes, and industry.
Environment in Balance with Economic Development The European Environment Agency (EEA) supports sustainable development as a key provider of timely, targeted, relevant and solid scientific information forming a basis for environmental policy makers and the public. The EEA brings together an expanding international body of research to indicate that good environmental management and regulation does not impede overall competitiveness and economic development. On the contrary, it can be beneficial by creating pressure that drives innovation and alerts businesses about resource inefficiencies and new opportunities.
Scientific e-Network The European Commission has developed the SINAPSE e-Network (Scientific InformAtion for Policy Support in Europe [http://europa.eu/sinapse/sinapse/index.cfm]) in its Science and Society Action Plan. This web-based communication platform provides free membership, and offers essential tools to promote and encourage effective exchange of information between all stockholders. It includes an electronic library to collect scientific opinions and advice, can be used for sending early-warning signals and raising awareness of science-related issues, is a communication tool for discussions, debates, and surveys, and performs thematic and focused searches. Owners of information are network members, providing transparency and access to further source details.
Research Funding The Lisbon Strategy 2000 called for the EU to create an internal market for science and technology - the "European Research Area" (ERA) - for coordination of research activities and the convergence of research and innovation policies at national and EU levels. The Sixth EU Framework Program for Research and Technological Development (FP6) is the primary research funding financial instrument for the EU's ERA. Its budget of €17.5 billion over four years (2002-2006) represents 5.4% of public non-military research spending in Europe, with the rest funded by private and public sources in individual countries. Research institutes, universities, public and private companies and individual research scientists are qualified to apply, and projects must be transnational, with partners from different member and associated countries. According to the 2007 Scoreboard, EU-based companies have increased their R&D by 7.4%. The chemical sector shows impressive R&D growth rates in the EU group. By sectors, pharmaceuticals & biotechnology became the top R&D investing sector, overtaking the technology hardware & equipment sector. However, EU companies continued to grow their R&D investment at a lower rate than their non-EU counter-parts.
Carrying Capacity The Sixth Environmental Action Programme includes broad-based themes for conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment and natural resources. A main objective of EU policy-making is respect for environmental carrying capacity to avoid consequential, and sometimes irreversible, effects. In December 2005, the Strategy on Sustainable Use of Natural Resources was proposed, and a Maritime Strategy was adopted in October 2005. The goals of these Strategies are to ensure that consumption of resources and their associated impacts do not exceed the carrying capacity of the environment and break the linkages between economic growth and resource use.
Ecological Footprint Sustainable management and development must meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. One indicator of sustainability is ecological footprinting. An ecological footprint measures how much land is required to supply a particular country, region, city, business or individual with its living and lifestyle needs - that is food, housing, energy/fuel, transport, and consumer goods and services. The larger the footprint, the more resources are needed to support that lifestyle.
Plant Science The EU introduced a technology platform in 2007 called Plants for the Future, which includes a research agenda stretching to 2025. The agenda introduces five areas of priority for research: healthy, safe and sufficient food and feed; plant-based chemical and energy products; sustainable agriculture, forestry and landscape; vibrant and competitive basic plant research; and consumer choice and governance. Dr. Markwart Kunz explains that the purpose is to "...better integrate plant science into the whole chain of sciences and industries to develop technologies for the better use of plants." The main goal of Plants for the Future is to try to reduce the input of crops and increase the output, so that the need for fertilizers and water is reduced and the crops' stress resistance increases. Another goal includes increasing the use of plants' potential for food, feed and construction, and eventually as a source of energy and chemicals. Organizations like EPSO, the European Plant Science Organization, work to assist EU policymaking in this area
Innovation and Eco-Efficiency EU competitiveness and economic prosperity are based on the quality of its products and services, not necessarily their low price. Strengthening innovation forms the heart of the Strategy for Growth and Employment, especially those aimed at eco-efficiency that benefit the environment and drive the economy. Part of the revised Lisbon Strategy, these include technology, design, organization, marketing and distribution. They save cost, improve quality, open up new markets, and decrease vulnerability and resource dependency of the EU to price shocks on commodity markets.
The Clean, Clever, Competitive Initiative, started under the Dutch Presidency in 2004, bridges the seemingly opposite objectives of more economic growth and jobs while exerting less pressure on limited environmental resources. Clean, Clever, Competitive functions by seeking innovation, not ordinary political compromise. Its focus on emerging technology and eco-efficiency innovation help define Europe’s competitive edge.
Long-Term Predictability and Tradable Market Solutions In 2007, the European Commission unveiled a new reformed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) aimed at further reducing emissions across Europe. ETS replaces 27 national targets with one EU-wide target, which in turn reduces total emission allowances circulating at the end of 2021 by 1.74%. The reformed Scheme has an increased scope and includes new sectors such as aviation, petrochemicals and the aluminum sector. It also includes two new gases, nitrous oxide and perfluorocarbon, which means that 50% of all EU emissions will be included in the Scheme. In response to criticism that too many allowances are being handed out for free, the Scheme will have 60% of the allowances auctioned off as early as 2013, and 100% between 2013 and 2020. To achieve additional reductions of emissions in sectors not covered by the Scheme, the Commission has set national targets according to individual countries' GDP. More affluent countries will make larger cuts up to 20%.
Knowledge-Based Society Education, innovative thinking, staff training, and lifelong learning are qualities shared by the most productive and successful businesses in the world. As representatives of the economy and providers of training, the Chambers of Commerce and Industry are strongly committed to their key national roles in developing and implementing educational programs tailored to the changing needs of both enterprises and individuals. In addition, the Lisbon Strategy (2000) was agreed upon by the European Council, setting an ambitious goal for the EU to become, within one decade, "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion." The Strategy covers research, education, training, online business, and Internet access with low-cost world-class communication networks.
Sustainable Development The EU has made sustainable development, including environmental protection, a top priority. The European Commission for Enterprise and Industry has set up a High Level Group to strengthen the interplay between the three main policy objectives of Competitiveness, Energy, and Environment. In addition, EU studies show environmental policies have a neutral to mildly positive impact on the number of people in the workforce, identifying a clear link between social inclusion and the quality of the environment. This is especially the case with new policies that support development and use of new clean technologies within the EU and globally, such as the Environmental Technologies Action Plan [http://ec.europa.eu/environment/etap/index_en.html]. A new study by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training concludes that every job will be a green job in the future and “integrating sustainable development and environmental issues into existing qualifications is much more effective that creating new training standards.”
SMEs and Entrepreneural Spirit Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with less than 250 employees are the backbone of Europe's economy. There are about 23 million SMEs in the EU, providing around 75 million jobs and accounting for 99% of all enterprises. SMEs contribute up to 80% of employment in some industrial sectors, such as textiles, construction and furniture. SMEs are a major source of entrepreneurial skills, innovation, and key contributors to economic and social cohesion. They are encouraged to go international, leading to more competitive positions and enhancing companies' growth and productivity. The Commission of the European Communities is taking steps at the Community level and in Member States to advocate SME friendly policies in which they can grow, make profits, invest, and create jobs most effectively for unlocking the full EU economic potential.
The Commission Communication on New SME Policy provides a coherent framework for SME actions while integrating objectives of existing enterprise policy instruments to enhance transparency of the European SME policy. It aims at making the "Think Small First" principle effective across all EU policies, pushing for regulatory and administrative simplification. The new approach highlights SMEs' importance to society and commitment to corporate social responsibility, allowing them to improve their performance and competitiveness while having a positive impact on the local community and the environment. Industries also have a responsibility towards SMEs as sub-contractors, e.g. in the car industry.
The new strategic approach includes:
- Streamlining of Community policy instruments, reducing and simplifying legislation
- Promote alternative policy instruments such as standards and voluntary agreements
- Simplify rules related to SME participation in Community programs
- Financial assistance for business support services, skills, technological development, and separate funds for the new cohesion policy
- Narrow the skills gap with training courses for changing labor markets
- Reduce the burden of risk in business transfers, improve transfers of knowledge, tackle negative effects of business failure and examine the possibility of improving social security schemes and bankruptcy procedures
- Promote take-up of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), e-learning and e-business as key elements to improve SME competitiveness
- Improve SMEs access to the Internal Market, facilitate and improve cross-border activities within the EU
- Reduce the information gap between EU institutions and businesses, and create an easy-to-use consultation mechanism
- Promote entrepreneurship education, careers and responsible practices, and improve the publics' perception
- Foster cooperation with Member States and other stakeholders by reinforcing networking with national administrations on SME issues
The Communication Commission has proposed a 7 year, €5 million Environmental Compliance Assistance Programme (ECAP) to help SMEs minimize the environmental impact of their activities and facilitate compliance with existing legislation by designing instruments and policies to integrate environmental concerns into the core of SME activities.
Beyond the Borders
Global Climate Change The EU is a committed leader in fighting climate change, dating back to the 1979 Geneva Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution and continuing with the EU participation in the UN climate change process. The EU's target is to limit global temperature rise by 2°C, and focus on how developing countries can achieve development goals while keeping carbon emissions down. The EU ministers have made it clear that a global approach is needed for both industrialized countries and newer economic powers such as China and India.
Current EU climate change targets are collectively known as the 20-20-20 targets. They call for: a reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions of at least 20% below 1990 levels; EU energy consumption to come from at least 20% renewable resources; a 20% reduction in primary energy use compared with projected levels, to be achieved through improving energy efficiency. Discussions are in process about whether to increase the ambition of the targets to 30-30-30 in the same time period.
The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is a unique system adopted by the EU aimed at cost-effectively reducing green house gas emissions from industrial and power plants, and meeting EU Kyoto commitments on climate change. Instead of member country targets, there is an EU-wide emissions cap, as well as new legislation that governs emissions from sectors outside the EU ETS, such as transport, housing, agriculture, and waste. A legal framework to enhance Carbon Capture and Storage is also in process. Read more here [http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/climate_action.htm]
International Sustainable Development The EU actively promotes sustainable development worldwide by striving to have internal and external policies consistent with global sustainable development. This can be achieved through continuing to make significant progress toward meeting internationally agreed upon goals and targets. In part, the renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS) provides an external policy structure for overall objectives, targets and actions to aid in achieving these external goals. This includes implementing EU sustainable strategies in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific. In addition, the EU is working with its trading partners to improve environmental and social standards and use full potential of trade or cooperation agreements at regional or bilateral levels. For example, a report by TRAFFIC calls on the EU to adopt a "clear strategic plan that guarantees external assistance to countries where wildlife products originate, to ensure their trade is sustainable." This is a response to the Commission's 2006 Action Plan on biodiversity in order to better conserve biodiversity and sustain ecosystem services in the long term. The MEPs are also calling on the Commission to improve the regulation of introducing invasive species into the ecosystem. This includes the introduction of genetically modified organisms, as well as monitoring deep-sea bottom trawling and setting catch quotas. The overall maintenance of ecosystems will be a fundamental goal of all EU sectoral and horizontal policies.
EU's Neighbor Policies The European Security Strategy of 2003 addressed global security's key threats of terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, state failure, and organized crime. The following year after enlargement of the EU, the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) was developed to support the European Security Strategy. ENP's objectives are to further avoid the emergence of new dividing lines through strengthening stability, security, and well-being with neighbors to the east and on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean. The ENP builds upon commitments to mutual values of democracy and human rights, good governance, market economy principles, and sustainable development. It offers neighbors deeper political relationships, and economic integration to the extent to which values are effectively shared and does not include an accession perspective.
The first seven ENP Action Plans were agreed to in early 2005 with Israel, Jordan, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Tunisia, and the Ukraine. Russia is also a high priority interest in external relations of the EU. The EU-Russia Summit of 2005 adopted a package of Road Maps for the creation of EU-Russia Common Spaces. One of its objectives is to create the EU-Russia Information Society Dialogue as a framework to address issues, promote mutual understanding of legislation and field policy, and exchange best practices on objectives of mutual interest.
GMO Precautions EU legislation on genetically modified organisms has been in place since the early 1990s to protect human health and the environment, and ensure free movement of safe GMO products in the EU. EU regulatory framework strictly follows an internationally recommended approach and reflects the requirements of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to which the EU is a signatory. It is the task of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to carry out scientific risk assessments and give scientific advice on GMOs in the EU. The purpose of the EU's stringent science-based risk assessment on a case by case basis is to avoid the potential failure of the regulatory system, such as those experienced by the US in the recent past when non-approved GMOs entered the US food chain. In addition, labeling and traceability are required for pre-packaged products consisting of or containing GMOs. Thus far, GMOs are only used as animal feed and for industrial processes. In 2007, there was a 77% increase in biotech crop cultivation in Europe over last year, totaling 110,077 hectares in 7 EU Member States. Out of 209 biotech crops under cultivation or development in 46 countries around the world, the only type of biotech crop grown in the EU to date is Bt maize.
International Economic Cooperation The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations. It is a forum where 55 countries of western, central and eastern Europe, central Asia and North America come together to create tools of economic cooperation in the areas of economic integration, energy, environment, human settlements, population, statistics, timber, trade, and transport.
The Commission's experts provide technical assistance to the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA), and of southeastern Europe. This assistance takes the form of advisory services, training seminars and workshops where countries in transition can share their experiences and receive support from other countries in the region.
In addition, through its common trade policy, the EU supports global trade and was a key player in the creation and development of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The EU promotes a model balancing market forces with multilateral governance to ensure that globalization benefits are distributed fairly. The EU's strategy for sustainable development aims at reconciling economic growth, social cohesion, and environmental protection.
External Assistance The EU formally recognizes the connection of poverty, conflict, and instability on all the worlds’ populations. In 2009, the EU provides over €12 Billion in external assistance to more than 150 countries and territories to improve individual lives. The EuropeAid Cooperation Office was created in 2001 to implement the external aid instruments of the European Commission through programs, with funding by the European Community budget and European Development Fund. It is responsible for all phases of project cycles. Main areas of action include: Access to clean and safe water, rural development and food security, accessible quality health care, education systems and access to school, trade and the private sector prosperity, freedom, human rights, good governance, security, justice, and regional cooperation. This vital contribution supports global stability and security given the serious implications of poverty and inequality, beyond the moral imperatives they raise. Learn more about the EU’s external cooperation programs here [http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/index_en.htm]
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