Sustainability and EU cohesion policy

Briefing 04-10-2016

Working for Europe's sustainable development by protecting and improving the quality of the environment, for instance, is one of the core missions entrusted to the European Union by the Treaties. As the EU's main investment policy, accounting for almost a third of the total EU budget in the 2014-2020 period, cohesion policy has the potential to contribute significantly to achieving this ambition. Provisions are in place to mainstream environmental concerns and protection requirements into the preparation and implementation of cohesion policy supported programmes and projects. Significantly, approval for financial assistance is subject to compliance with the directives on environmental assessment. The cohesion policy funds make considerable support available for investment in areas of particular relevance to sustainable development, such as environmental protection and resource efficiency (over €35 billion); the low-carbon economy (almost €40 billion) and climate change adaptation. Through this funding, cohesion policy is expected to play a significant role in advancing the implementation of EU environmental policies and in helping the EU achieve its objectives for energy, climate, and the circular economy. Initial insight into cohesion policy's environmental performance can be gained from recent reports on the ex-post evaluation of cohesion policy programmes in the 2007-2013 period regarding waste management and water; the impact of EU policies on land; and the use of EU funds to support the clean energy transition in central and eastern Europe.