EU environmental policy to 2030: a systemic change

What are the goals of the EU Environment Action Plan to 2030 and what has to be done to achieve them?

Climate action has been at the heart of the EU’s mission for decades

As Europe, along with the rest of the world, faces the economic and societal impact of climate change, ecosystem degradation and overconsumption of natural resources, Parliament adopted the EU’s Environment Action Programme 2030 on 10 March 2022.

Find out about EU responses to climate change

Towards a climate-neutral EU

In November 2019, Parliament adopted a resolution declaring a climate emergency and urged the European Commission to ensure that future legislative and budgetary proposals are aligned with the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement. As a result, the Commission came up with the European Green Deal - the roadmap for a climate-neutral Europe. The new Environmental Action programme will help achieve that goal. 

The first EU Environment Action Programme in 1973 aimed to reduce pollution, improve natural and urban environments and promote awareness of ecological problems. This 8th environmental action programme focuses on accelerating the transition to climate neutrality, to clean and efficient energies and to a circular and well-being economy.

A sustainable economy is key

In its State of the Environment report, the European Environment Agency said that economic activities and lifestyle are Europe’s most important environmental challenges.

According to the Parliament, the EU should shift towards a sustainable well-being economy with the Sustainable Development Goals as the foundation. A wellbeing economy is one where public interest determines economics and not the other way around.

The priorities of the action programme include:

  • Environmental damage as a priority, rectified at source and damage paid for by the polluter
  • Fostering climate change mitigation to attain the 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, whilst ensuring a just transition that leaves no-one behind
  • Adapting and reducing the vulnerability of the environment, society and all sectors of the economy to climate change
  • Pursuing a zero pollution objective, including in relation to harmful chemicals
  • Advancing towards a well-being economy where growth is regenerative
  • Protecting, preserving and restoring biodiversity and halting and reversing its loss
  • Reducing key environmental and climate pressures related to production and consumption
  • Strengthening environmentally positive incentives as well as phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies, in particular fossil fuel subsidies
  • Using data technologies to support environment policy, ensuring transparency and public accessibility of the data

The Commission will review of these objectives by 31 March 2024.

Monitoring and transparency on the phasing out of harmful subsidies

Fossil fuel subsidies should be phased out in an effort to limit global warming to 1.5°C and the EU should monitor EU countries’ progress in achieving this goal.

In addition, the EU should develop a new methodology to identify other environmentally harmful subsidies by 2023.

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