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Action plan in favour of environmental technologies
The European Union is adopting an action plan to promote environmental technologies (technologies whose use is less environmentally harmful than relevant alternatives) in order to reduce pressures on our natural resources, improve the quality of life of European citizens and stimulate economic growth. The action plan's objectives are to remove the obstacles so as to tap the full potential of environmental technologies, to ensure that the EU takes a leading role in applying them and to mobilise all stakeholders in support of these objectives.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 28 January 2004 entitled: "Stimulating technologies for sustainable development: an environmental technologies action plan for the European Union" [COM(2004) 38 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
This action plan in favour of environmental technologies concerns technologies to manage pollution, less polluting and less resource-intensive products and services and ways to manage resources more efficiently. These environmentally friendly technologies pervade all economic activities and sectors. They cut costs and improve competitiveness by reducing energy and resource consumption and so creating fewer emissions and less waste.
Key factors in promoting the environmental technologies
The Commission identifies a number of factors which in its opinion are of importance when promoting environmental technologies and which underpin this action plan:
- environmental technologies are very diverse and can be applied in all economic sectors;
- many environmental technologies are under-used, because of among other things low consumer awareness of their benefits, difficult access to finance and market prices which do not reflect the environmental benefits;
- targeted and effective incentives can contribute to the successful introduction of environmental technologies;
- reducing uncertainty about future market developments would boost investment in environmental technologies;
- the experience and commitment of the various stakeholders is vital in promoting environmental technologies;
- the optimum use of policy and economic instruments (such as legislation, voluntary measures etc.) can accelerate the uptake of environmental technologies;
- some of the measures which are needed to promote environmental technologies may not affect investment decisions immediately.
In Annex II to this communication, the Commission identifies the barriers to the development of environmentally friendly technologies. There are four types: economic, regulatory, technological and diffusion barriers.
Actions proposed in the plan
The actions proposed fall into three main areas according to their effect:
- getting environmental technologies from research laboratories to markets;
- improving market conditions to promote the adoption of environmental technologies;
- promoting environmental technologies at global level.
In order to get environmental technologies from the research laboratories to the markets, three priority actions are proposed:
- develop and focus research, demonstration and dissemination programmes;
- establish technology platforms for environmental technologies;
- establish European networks for standardisation, testing and performance verification related to environmental technologies.
To improve market conditions, the Commission is proposing among other things to:
- set performance targets for the main products, services and processes;
- use financial instruments (loans, risk capital, guarantee mechanisms) to share the risk of investing in environmental technologies;
- review the guidelines on State aid;
- revise subsidies which have a negative impact on the environment;
- encourage the purchase of environmental technologies;
- increase consumer and business awareness of environmental technologies;
- organise targeted training in environmental technologies.
With a view to promoting environmental technologies at international level, the priority action proposed by the Commission seeks to encourage responsible investment in environmentally-friendly technologies, as well as the use of environmental technologies in developing countries and those undergoing economic transition.
This Action Plan is based on the results of extensive stakeholder consultations and an assessment of the barriers hindering the development of environmental technologies.
The Action Plan will be implemented in synergy with the Lisbon Process and the 6th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.
Further information regarding the Environmental Technologies Action Plan can be found on the relevant European Commission web page.