To see how environmental technology can contribute to sustainable development in the European Union.
Commission report of 13 March 2002, environmental technology for sustainable development [COM (2002) 122 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
1. At the European Council in Lisbon (March 2000) the European Union set itself the objective of becoming the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. In adopting a sustainable development strategy, the Göteborg European Council (June 2001) added an environmental dimension to the Lisbon objectives. It also asked the Commission to present a report on the contribution of environmental technology to growth. This is the report.
2. The term environmental technology, as used in the report, refers to technologies that prevent pollutants being generated during the production process and discharged at the end, new materials, environmental know-how and new ways of working. In fact, environmental technology refers to all activities which produce goods and services to measure, prevent, limit or correct environmental damage, as well as problems related to waste, noise and ecosystems. It includes three types of activity:
- pollution management;
- integrated technologies and products which generate little pollution;
- resource management.
3. Environmental technology has a key contribution to make towards sustainable development. It helps improve economic growth (by reducing environmental protection costs) while at the same time safeguarding natural resources and the environment. This frees up resources for use elsewhere in the economy, thereby opening up more long-term development possibilities. It helps to decouple growth from environmental damage.
The environmental technology market
4. The report looks at the importance of environmental technology on the European and world markets. On the world market, European exports are competitive and diverse. The EU is particularly competitive in the following sectors: the development of water distribution and waste water treatment infrastructure, waste management, technologies for combating air pollution and renewable energy sources.
5. Numerous studies indicate that environmental technology will be a rapid growth industry in the 21st century.
6. The Commission stresses that in all economic sectors new more environment-friendly technologies exist or are being developed. These technologies, and future prospects in the energy, transport, industrial, waste management, fisheries and information and communication technology sectors are looked at in the report.
Action plan to promote environmental technology
7. The report mentions several obstacles to the development of environmental technology: lack of financial resources, risk aversion and uncertainty, lack of information on efficiency, shortage of required skills, economic risks, innovation costs, the segmentation of the market and lack of competition. These problems are aggravated by the fact that prices do not take full account of the value of environmental goods and services.
8. The EU is promoting environmental technology in order to overcome these obstacles. Several different instruments are being used to achieve this: environmental policy, energy and transport policy, research policy and trade policy. A report on an action plan to promote environmental technology will be presented at the European Council in spring 2003. The action plan will include:
- a survey of promising technologies that could address the main environmental problems;
- the identification, with stakeholders, of the market and institutional barriers that are holding back development and use of specific technologies;
- the identification of a targeted package of measures to address these barriers, and building on existing instruments.