B1.4 EU Environmental Policy


The EU became engaged with environmental regulation in 1972 when it published its first Environmental Action Plan (EAP).

The EU’s role in environmental protection was subsequently extended under the Single European Act (1986), Maastricht Treaty (1992) and Amsterdam Treaty (1997).

EU environment policy is guided by the “Precautionary Principle” and the “Polluter Pays Principle”.

The Seventh Environment Action Programme set out the EU’s priorities and will be guiding European environment policy until 2020. In order to give more long-term direction it sets out a vision beyond that, of where it wants the Union to be by 2050:

“In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.”

It identifies three key objectives:

  • to protect, conserve and enhance the Union’s natural capital
  • to turn the Union into a resource-efficient, green, and competitive low-carbon economy
  • to safeguard the Union’s citizens from environment-related pressures and risks to health and wellbeing

Four so called “enablers” will help Europe deliver on these goals:

  • better implementation of legislation
  • better information by improving the knowledge base
  • more and wiser investment for environment and climate policy
  • full integration of environmental requirements and considerations into other policies

Two additional horizontal priority objectives complete the programme:

  • to make the Union’s cities more sustainable
  • to help the Union address international environmental and climate challenges more effectively.

The programme entered into force in January 2014. It is now up to the EU institutions and the Member States to ensure it is implemented, and that priority objectives set out are met by 2020.

Source: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/action-programme/