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EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Environmental protection

28-06-2019

Through its environmental policy, the European Union (EU) has been improving Europeans' well-being since 1972. Today, the aim of EU environmental policy is to ensure that by 2050 we are living well, within the limits of the planet. To reach this goal, the EU is striving to move towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy, to safeguard biodiversity and to protect human health through legislation on air quality, chemicals, climate, nature, waste and water. Although this policy is delivering concrete ...

Through its environmental policy, the European Union (EU) has been improving Europeans' well-being since 1972. Today, the aim of EU environmental policy is to ensure that by 2050 we are living well, within the limits of the planet. To reach this goal, the EU is striving to move towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy, to safeguard biodiversity and to protect human health through legislation on air quality, chemicals, climate, nature, waste and water. Although this policy is delivering concrete benefits (such as a wide network of Natura 2000 protected areas, lower greenhouse gas emissions, increased resource recycling, and cleaner air and water), the outlook for the European environment 20 years from now shows a bleaker picture. Yet transitioning to sustainability could deliver a number of benefits beyond environmental protection, from jobs and economic activity to well-being and health. In a recent poll conducted for the European Parliament, three quarters of EU citizens expressed support for increased EU action on environmental protection. Since 2014, efforts have been made in a number of areas, including waste management (for example new recycling targets, restrictions on plastic carrier bags, action on plastics, measures to tackle marine litter); climate (for example the 2030 greenhouse gas emission targets, and measures to decarbonise the transport sector); nature (primarily to improve the way EU rules on biodiversity protection are implemented); and air quality (new rules on maximum amounts of five key air pollutants that EU countries can emit into the atmosphere). The European Parliament has advocated ambitious policies in many of these areas. In the future, EU environment and climate spending is expected to rise. The Commission is proposing to boost the share of EU spending contributing to climate objectives from 20 % to 25 %, while Parliament has called for this share to be set at 30 %. In the coming years, policies are expected to focus on climate action, nature protection, air quality, the circular economy and pesticides. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

Single-use plastics and fishing gear: Reducing marine litter

17-06-2019

Most of the plastic in our oceans originates from land-based sources. On European beaches, plastics make up 80-85 % of marine litter, which is considered a major threat to marine and coastal biodiversity. Marine litter also costs the European Union economy an estimated €259 million to €695 million per year. In May 2018, the European Commission put forward a legislative proposal seeking to address the issue of marine litter from plastics. The proposal would introduce a series of measures regarding ...

Most of the plastic in our oceans originates from land-based sources. On European beaches, plastics make up 80-85 % of marine litter, which is considered a major threat to marine and coastal biodiversity. Marine litter also costs the European Union economy an estimated €259 million to €695 million per year. In May 2018, the European Commission put forward a legislative proposal seeking to address the issue of marine litter from plastics. The proposal would introduce a series of measures regarding the top 10 single-use plastics found on European beaches, as well as fishing gear, with a view to reducing their impact on the environment and ensuring a functional internal market. After completion of the legislative procedure, the final act was signed by the presidents of the co-legislators (European Parliament and Council) on 5 June 2019, and published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 12 June 2019. Member States have two years (i.e. until 3 July 2021) to transpose the new directive into national law. Fourth edition of a briefing originally drafted by Didier Bourguignon. document has been designed for on-line viewing.

Establishing a programme for the environment and climate action (LIFE)

22-11-2018

The Commission proposed to continue the current LIFE programme and increase its budget and scope. The supporting impact assessment is largely in line with the requirements of the Better Regulation Guidelines in terms of the range of options, the assessment of impacts, the quality of data and the analysis it provides. However, consultation activities, subsidiarity and proportionality assessment, the specific objectives and operational goals and their link to the proposed monitoring and evaluation ...

The Commission proposed to continue the current LIFE programme and increase its budget and scope. The supporting impact assessment is largely in line with the requirements of the Better Regulation Guidelines in terms of the range of options, the assessment of impacts, the quality of data and the analysis it provides. However, consultation activities, subsidiarity and proportionality assessment, the specific objectives and operational goals and their link to the proposed monitoring and evaluation framework fall short of the Better Regulation Guidelines.

LIFE programme for 2021-2027: Financing environmental and climate objectives

09-11-2018

Launched in 1992, the LIFE programme is the only EU fund entirely dedicated to environmental and climate objectives. It supports the implementation of relevant EU legislation and the development of key policy priorities, by co-financing projects with European added value. To date, LIFE has co financed more than 4 500 projects. In June 2018, the European Commission submitted a proposal on a regulation establishing a new LIFE programme for 2021-2027. The programme would support projects in the areas ...

Launched in 1992, the LIFE programme is the only EU fund entirely dedicated to environmental and climate objectives. It supports the implementation of relevant EU legislation and the development of key policy priorities, by co-financing projects with European added value. To date, LIFE has co financed more than 4 500 projects. In June 2018, the European Commission submitted a proposal on a regulation establishing a new LIFE programme for 2021-2027. The programme would support projects in the areas of nature and biodiversity, circular economy and quality of life, clean energy transition, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. A total of €4.83 billion in 2018 prices (€5.45 billion in current prices) would be earmarked to the new programme. In the European Parliament, the proposal has been referred to the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). The Environment Council considered the information provided by the Commission on the proposal in a public session on 25 June 2018. First edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Material use in the European Union: Towards a circular approach

11-09-2018

Global material use has tripled during the past four decades, in particular as a result of increasing living standards. The use of materials, which need to be extracted from our environment, can pose environmental challenges. It can also be threatened by resource scarcity and price volatility. This is particularly true for Europe, which is strongly dependent on imported materials. There are a number of ways to consider material use in the European Union (EU). The breakdown of material use by types ...

Global material use has tripled during the past four decades, in particular as a result of increasing living standards. The use of materials, which need to be extracted from our environment, can pose environmental challenges. It can also be threatened by resource scarcity and price volatility. This is particularly true for Europe, which is strongly dependent on imported materials. There are a number of ways to consider material use in the European Union (EU). The breakdown of material use by types of materials indicates that non-metallic minerals, which include sand and gravel, account for almost half of the materials used in the EU. Material flows provide an overall picture of how materials enter, are used and finally leave the economy. Some of these materials stay in stocks, which are growing year after year. However, the efficiency of material use, measured through resource productivity, has increased substantially since 2000, in part as a result of the economic crisis. Material use in the EU is steered by policies related to different areas such as energy, waste and industry. Relevant policy documents include the 2011 roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe, the 2013 seventh Environment Action Programme and the 2015 circular economy action plan. The EU supports these policies with funding. Funding channels include the Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation, which allocated about €635 million between 2014 and 2020 for research on raw-material-related challenges. The European structural and investment funds also support developing more efficient material use practices. The European Parliament has advocated making the use of harmonised indicators for resource efficiency legally binding in the Member States and setting targets for increasing resource efficiency. Parliament has also supported broadening the scope of eco-design requirements to gradually include all relevant resource-efficiency features in product-design requirements.

2021-2027 multiannual financial framework and new own resources: Analysis of the Commission's proposal

26-07-2018

The process of negotiating a new seven-year financial plan for the EU has now begun formally with the Commission's publication of proposals for a 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), and for a new system of own resources providing the revenue to pay for it. This analysis presents the proposed new MFF and own resources and compares them to the status quo, as well as to the European Parliament's priorities as expressed in plenary resolutions adopted in spring 2018.

The process of negotiating a new seven-year financial plan for the EU has now begun formally with the Commission's publication of proposals for a 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), and for a new system of own resources providing the revenue to pay for it. This analysis presents the proposed new MFF and own resources and compares them to the status quo, as well as to the European Parliament's priorities as expressed in plenary resolutions adopted in spring 2018.

Land use in the EU 2030 climate and energy framework

19-07-2018

On 20 July 2016, the European Commission proposed a regulation regarding the inclusion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals from land use and forestry in the EU 2030 climate and energy framework. This would be the first time that the land-use sector is formally included in EU climate policy. The regulation would require Member States to balance emissions and removals from the land-use sector over two five-year periods between 2021 and 2030. It sets out accounting rules and allows for certain ...

On 20 July 2016, the European Commission proposed a regulation regarding the inclusion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals from land use and forestry in the EU 2030 climate and energy framework. This would be the first time that the land-use sector is formally included in EU climate policy. The regulation would require Member States to balance emissions and removals from the land-use sector over two five-year periods between 2021 and 2030. It sets out accounting rules and allows for certain flexibilities. The new regulation is part of the EU’s efforts to reduce its GHG emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. This target was set by the European Council in October 2014, and is also the EU’s international commitment under the Paris Agreement on climate change. After completion of the legislative procedure, the final act was signed on 30 May 2018. The regulation entered into force on 9 July 2018. Fifth edition. The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure. Please note this document has been designed for on-line viewing.

Effort sharing regulation, 2021-2030: Limiting Member States' carbon emissions

19-07-2018

In July 2016, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation to limit post-2020 national emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in sectors not covered by the EU emissions trading system (ETS). These include transport, buildings and agriculture. The proposed regulation would be the successor of the Effort Sharing Decision that sets annual national GHG emission limits for the period 2013-2020. The proposed regulation is part of the EU’s efforts to reduce its GHG emissions by at least 40% ...

In July 2016, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation to limit post-2020 national emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in sectors not covered by the EU emissions trading system (ETS). These include transport, buildings and agriculture. The proposed regulation would be the successor of the Effort Sharing Decision that sets annual national GHG emission limits for the period 2013-2020. The proposed regulation is part of the EU’s efforts to reduce its GHG emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. This target was set by the European Council in October 2014, and also constitutes the EU’s international commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. After completion of the legislative procedure, the final act was signed on 30 May 2018. The Regulation entered into force on 9 July 2018. Fifth edition. The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure. Please note this document has been designed for on-line viewing.

Air quality: Pollution sources and impacts, EU legislation and international agreements

10-07-2018

Outdoor air pollution is caused by the emission of harmful substances from natural sources and human activities. It has a number of adverse effects on human health and the environment, and subsequently on society and the economy. Air pollution can be transported or formed over long distances and can affect large areas. Effective air quality policies require action and cooperation beyond the local and national levels, on a European and global scale. This publication presents key air pollutants, lists ...

Outdoor air pollution is caused by the emission of harmful substances from natural sources and human activities. It has a number of adverse effects on human health and the environment, and subsequently on society and the economy. Air pollution can be transported or formed over long distances and can affect large areas. Effective air quality policies require action and cooperation beyond the local and national levels, on a European and global scale. This publication presents key air pollutants, lists natural sources of air pollution, and details emissions from human activities by sector. It describes adverse effects on human health, the environment and the climate, as well as socio-economic impacts. In addition, it provides an overview of international agreements and European Union legislation setting air quality standards, lowering national emissions of pollutants, and reducing emissions of pollutants at specific sources. Furthermore, this publication briefly describes the state of implementation of key EU legislation related to air quality. Finally, it reflects the position of the European Parliament and stakeholders on the policy area.

Marine litter: single-use plastics and fishing gear

09-07-2018

The Commission proposal aims to reduce the environmental harm from single-use plastics and fishing gear. The supporting impact assessment (IA) does not discuss the impacts on innovation, research and development or the feasibility for businesses to invest into alternative materials. The IA only briefly touches upon the implications for SMEs and does not explain why the open public consultation ran for 8 weeks instead of the 12 weeks. Finally, the proposal misses certain measures foreseen under the ...

The Commission proposal aims to reduce the environmental harm from single-use plastics and fishing gear. The supporting impact assessment (IA) does not discuss the impacts on innovation, research and development or the feasibility for businesses to invest into alternative materials. The IA only briefly touches upon the implications for SMEs and does not explain why the open public consultation ran for 8 weeks instead of the 12 weeks. Finally, the proposal misses certain measures foreseen under the preferred option and contains measures not foreseen in the IA.

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