Brussels, 30 November 2012
Europe's regions and municipalities need more support if new EU Environment Action Programme is to succeed
Whilst backing the European Commission's proposal for a framework on the future of EU environmental policy, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) has cautioned that more concrete measures must be put in place supporting local and regional authorities if it is to achieve success. The opinion on the better implementation of the future 7th Environment Action Programme (7EAP) presented by CoR rapporteur Nilgun Canver (UK/PES) and adopted by unanimity at plenary today, also argues that additional measures need to be implemented to fully engage local representatives in the decision-making process and to improve the flow of information.
The draft 7EAP under the title "Living well, within the limits of the planet" was published by the European Commission yesterday and is due to replace the 6th Programme that ended in July. The CoR broadly welcomes the new proposals describing the previous programme as having proved to be "insufficient" to properly protect the environment and public health. The Committee underlines that it was important that the 7EAP recognised the role of good national, regional and local governance in ensuring delivery. It also welcomes the Commission's clear acknowledgement in the plans that more work is needed to improve communication among stakeholders including improvements to engaging local and regional governments.
Councillor Nilgun Canver, London Borough of Haringey, and member of the Local Government Association for England and Wales, said: “We all want a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable environment. Good implementation involves responding effectively to actual or potential problems at local level. Improving knowledge and the quality of data is essential, and better and more accessible information at national and local levels will allow issues to be identified more quickly, saving costs and protecting the environment.”
Yet the CoR urges the Commission to take another step and proposes increasing local and regional participation in the creation and evaluation of EU environmental legislation in order to ensure efficient and effective implementation. It calls for further initiatives to engage and enable local and regional authorities to exchange best practices in policy implementation. The CoR suggests that the 7EAP needs to ensure effective source-based policies and expanding cost-recovery options as well as ensuring a stronger focus on how to manage the urban environment. It stresses that in order to improve delivery the EU and Member States must build on the initiatives mentioned in the Programme and focus in particular on the pro-active dissemination and accessibility of information, the creation of an EU framework for environmental inspections and the revival of the stalled Access to Justice Directive. The CoR also advocates establishing cross-government teams in the Member States bringing together representatives from all levels of government to draw-up national implementation plans.
Councillor Canver added: “Implementation and enforcement of environment law is a shared task with European, national and local authorities. We must act together, in partnership, to tackle environmental issues such as air pollution which knows no borders. It’s crucial that when local councils, regional organisations and national governments work together, along with the EU, they support each other and share best practice across borders regarding environmental goals. We also need to better engage with our residents to help them understand the need for new approaches and technologies to get them on board with environmental initiatives.”
7th EAP Conference and launch of the Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment
The opinion was adopted a day after the presentation of the draft 7EAP and less than a week before the CoR and European Commission's Directorate-General for Environment hold a conference on the 7EAP looking how to achieve best practice on the ground. The conference entitled Driving better implementation in our cities & regions – a key element of the 7th Environment Action Programme will also be an opportunity for Commissioner Janez Potočnik and CoR Vice- President Mercedes Bresso to launch a Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment which will allow local and regional authorities to discuss problems and find solutions in applying EU environment law.
The Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from all 27 EU Member States is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law infringes the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.
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