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Brussels, 11 November 2008

Practising what we preach: environmental management in the European Commission

Following the positive results of its third EMAS (eco-management and audit scheme) registration, the European Commission is now preparing to extend EMAS to the entire organisation from 2009. With this scheme, the Commission has in place a structured system for managing the environmental aspects of its activities, thus leading to improvements in several areas including increasing energy efficiency, reducing emissions and raising awareness among staff of environmental issues.

"As an organisation with a large workforce, the Commission can lead by example and make a real difference. I am encouraged by the progress we have made together to reduce the environmental impact of our daily activities. By extending EMAS to the entire Commission, we can build on our accumulated experience to face the challenge of continuously reducing our environmental footprint in the years to come," said Siim Kallas, Commission Vice-President for administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud.

The Commission has long been at the forefront of the fight against global climate change. In-house efforts are also longstanding, with an early commitment to "green housekeeping" (1997) and the 2001 adoption of the EMAS regulation for public administrations. The Commission applies EMAS in challenging conditions across an extensive real-estate portfolio, both rented and owned, with some buildings less energy-efficient than others. Occupying some 850,000 m2 in over 60 buildings in Brussels, a pragmatic approach is required. For this reason, EMAS was initially a pilot project in certain key departments — those responsible for buildings, office equipment, IT systems, personnel and training. The project involved various measures, including:

  • reduction of resource consumption, in particular energy and paper — for instance, in 10 EMAS-registered buildings electricity consumption has fallen by 20% and water consumption by 29% since 2002;
  • reduction of CO2 emissions — for instance, emissions in the same 10 buildings fell by 22% since 2002;
  • reduction in the amount of waste generated — for instance, since 2002 the amount declined from 331 kg/person/year to 284 kg/person/year;
  • promotion of alternatives to individual car transport for staff travel;


Like any office-based organisation, the Commission's main environmental impact is CO2 emissions from buildings on the one hand and from transport on the other. Water consumption and waste generation also have important impacts on the environment.

Today, EMAS is applied in one quarter of the Commission's buildings in Brussels, representing some 30% of the total floorspace occupied, and a plan is in place to gradually register the remaining buildings over the next four years. Results are significant: the Commission's flagship Berlaymont building, for example, generated 19% less CO2 and consumed 13% less gas and electricity compared with 2005.


Working closely with the Brussels Region, the Commission has supported initiatives in recent years to promote the use of public transport and to encourage the use of other sustainable means of transport, bicycles in particular. In March 2006, the Commission adopted a mobility plan for Commission staff in Brussels covering the period 2006 to 2009.

The latest survey data (mid-2008) indicate that the proportion of staff using a private car to commute to work has fallen to 29% (from 43% in 2004), while the proportion using public transport — bus, tram, metro or train — has risen to 49% (from 38% in 2004).

The Commission has some 300 bicycles at the disposal of staff for their journeys between the Commission's buildings during the working day. This initiative has also encouraged more and more staff members to cycle to work. Currently, 8% of staff cycle regularly to work (up from 5% in 2004).

Given the international nature of the Commission's work, a certain amount of business travel is inevitable; nonetheless video and teleconferencing facilities are increasingly available at all Commission sites, offering a low-cost, energy-efficient alternative to travelling.

What's next?

EMAS has proven to be the most appropriate instrument to manage and improve environmental performance at the European Commission. The scheme will be extended to all Commission departments in Brussels and Luxembourg starting in 2009.

The Commission is working closely with the Brussels Region on a new urban planning project focused on the area around the rue de la Loi. One of the goals is to make the neighbourhood a more attractive place in which to work and live, with specific attention to sustainable transport.

EMAS statement:

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