The European Committee of the Regions unanimously adopts a set of recommendations to improve integration and implementation of environmental legislation and policy in Europe.
Despite improvements in recent decades, Europe’s environment still faces considerable challenges. Natural capital is being degraded by agriculture, fisheries, transport, industry, tourism and urban sprawl. Local leaders denounce a lack of policy integration, funding, information exchange and coordination to effectively implement environmental legalisation in the EU. Ahead of the 8th Environment Action Programme to be presented by the next Commission, European cities and regions have put forward a set of recommendations to improve implementation of environmental policy and legislation in Europe for the next decade.
The members of the European Committee of the Regions have unanimously adopted an opinion on the 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP), the European Union’s upcoming framework outlining environmental policy priorities and objectives. The CoR has prepared this opinion with a comprehensive study published in 2018.
While environmental policy is undoubtingly one of the most solid achievements of the European integration process, shortfalls remain. The lack policy integration, funding, information sharing and administrative capacity and the need to highly increase coordination between all levels of government, boosting knowledge and data exchange and ensuring better compliance assurance.
The opinion’s rapporteur Cor Lamers (NL/EPP), Mayor of Schiedam and Chair of the CoR’s Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy (ENVE) said: “The next EAP should be more strategic, integrated, flexible, respond to new technological challenges and target innovation. It should also respond to the most pressing transition challenges, such as the energy, circular economy, food and clean mobility transitions. We must connect the concept of human health with a healthy planet, economy and society in which resources are used responsibly and efficiently. Our economic model must protect biodiversity and be based on the circular economy, with sufficient growth, development and jobs that feed a healthy society in which sustainable investments drive sustainable business models.”
“Biodiversity, waste management, air quality and noise are the most problematic areas when assessing the implementation of environmental legislation in Europe”, recalled Adina-Ioanna Vălean (RO/EPP), Chair of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee of the European Parliament. “It is clear that we need the maximum inclusion of EU cities and regions to make our environmental policies – and the EAP specifically – a success” stressed MEP Vălean at the CoR’s plenary session.
As largely responsible for the implementation of environmental directives in Europe, cities and regions have taken the lead in adopting concrete recommendations for the upcoming framework of the EU’s environmental policy. Members ask to give priority to the effective implementation of existing standards and reject the transfer of fines to Local and Regional Authorities (LRAs).
The CoR supports incentives for those local and regional governments over-performing in implementing environmental policy and legislation and calls for more synergies between funding sources and public and private financing programmes.
Members have proposed that the next EAP presents an EU strategy to promote healthy living for all. The CoR proposes a lean clean 8th EAP with five main chapters: transitions, innovation, implementation, wider global challenges and communication.
To reinforce what it has become an exemplary institutional cooperation scheme, members propose to further enhance the Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment. Launched in 2012, the platform is a permanent dialogue structure between the European Commission and the CoR to foster implementation of environmental legislation and cooperation between local and regional administrations and the EU.
The CoR proposes to establish a network of ambassadors within the Technical Platform to promote implementation of environment legislation at all levels of government. RegHub, the CoR’s new Network of Regional Hubs for EU Policy Implementation Review is also to contribute to improving environmental implementation by finding gaps and tailor-made solutions across EU territories.
Members welcome the EC proposal to focus the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) on sustainable development and integrating environment policy into all budget headings. However, the CoR calls for over 30% of the budget reserved for climate policy mainstreaming.
Environment Action Programmes have guided EU Environment policy since the 1970s. The EU is currently under the 7th Environment Action Programme which runs until 31 December 2020. The European Commission’s Directorate General for the Environment is currently completing its evaluation to be presented at the next Green Week, 13-17 May 2019. On 16 May, the CoR will organise a debate on the future EAP.
The decision to present the 8th EAP will be in the hands of the next European Commission to take office following the European Elections on May 26. Environmental implementation is one of ENVE’s work priorities for 2019.
8th European Summit of Regions and Cities
Sustainable development and the next generation of EU programmes will be some of the key topics at the 8th European Summit of Regions and Cities, 14-15 March, Bucharest– just two weeks before the U.K.’s expected exit from the EU on 29 March, and two months ahead of the European elections.
Over 500 European, national, regional and local leaders from all EU Member States will be welcomed over in the Romanian capital to focus on the contribution of local and regional governments to the “Future of Europe”. Under the title “(Re) New EUrope”, the Summit will be the largest political gathering of mayors, regional presidents and other elected local and regional representatives from across the Union this year.
The event will also gather 100 young local and regional politicians to actively engage in the debate on the future of Europe. It will also see the official launch of the Committee’s initiative on a new Network of Regional Hubs (#RegHub) in the presence of the 20 participating regions.