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Environment Policy Review - 2008

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The 2008 Environment Policy Review reports on the progress made in European Union (EU) policy during 2008 and analyses future challenges.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 24 June 2009: 2008 Environment Policy Review [COM(2009) 304 final Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The environment is at the top of the policy agenda. This transversal policy can help the European Union (EU) to emerge from the global economic and financial crisis which affected the European continent in 2008, by paving the way for low-carbon growth and enhancing energy efficiency.

In this Communication, the Commission reviews the events which marked EU environment policy during 2008. It describes in particular the progress made in the four priority areas established by the Sixth Environment Action Programme: climate change, biodiversity, the environment and health, and the sustainable management of resources and wastes.

The fight against climate change was emphasised in December 2008 by a series of legislative proposals forming the climate-energy package and demonstrating the EU’s commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 % of 1990 levels by 2020 if other developed countries agreed comparable reductions or by at least 20% if they did not. This package aims at improving the Community greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme (EU ETS) and extending it to other greenhouse gases and other sectors. It also includes a proposal aimed at promoting renewable energies and another aimed at the reliable deployment of capture technologies and carbon storage.

Aside from the climate-energy package, the EU adopted other measures relating to climate change to reduce CO2 emissions on new vehicles and improve fuel quality.

The negotiation programme established at the Poznan conference in December 2008 should lead to a global agreement on climate change at the December 2009 United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen. This agreement will replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

With regard to the loss of biodiversity, the EU has continued its efforts in accordance with the Community Action Plan aimed at halting the reduction of biological diversity by 2010. The main measures that have been implemented consist of developing the Natura 2000 network by creating new sites in Bulgaria and Romania, and combating the spread of invasive species by proposing a number of strategic options including the creation of a Europe-wide early warning system to report new or emerging species.

In 2008, two initiatives were introduced to protect global forests which contribute to tackling climate change and the reduction in biodiversity. The first is a Regulation framing the timber and timber products market in Europe, and the second is a Communication presenting proposals from the Commission in order to combat tropical deforestation.

In the future, work will be directed at increasing biodiversity protection in the high seas under the Convention on Biological Diversity and related to the work of the International Whaling Commission, and at the prohibition of products from seals sacrificed with disregard for animal welfare rules.

In the area of environment and health, 2008 was marked by the entry into force of the REACH Regulation, aimed at reinforcing safety standards for chemicals produced in or imported into the EU. Other measures have been adopted concerning dangerous substances and mercury. The Directive on ambient air quality and pure air for Europe came into force in June. The Commission presented initiatives for sustainable transport and to reduce industrial emissions.

For 2009, work in the area of the environment and health will be concentrated on the amendment of the Directive on biocidal products and the establishment of new standards for vehicle emissions in order to adapt it to the REACH Regulation.

Concerning the management of naturalresources and waste, EU action relates to the protection of the water cycle (surface water and the marine environment), the development of sustainable production and consumption (ecodesign and the Ecolabel Scheme) and the improvement of waste recycling (ship dismantling, electrical and electronic equipment and bio-waste).

In 2009, the EU plans to introduce an environmental technology verification scheme to boost the confidence of buyers in the performance of new environmental technologies.

In 2008, progress was accomplished towards simplifying environment legislation through the development of programmes intended to improve the implementation of Community environmental laws. The Commission plans to use a broad set of tools to prevent breaches of the law, such as targeted use of Community funds and enhanced pre-accession support for enlargement countries.

Context

This annual activity report is a contribution to the Lisbon Process and the European Sustainable Development Strategy, of which the environment is an essential element.

Last updated: 26.10.2009
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