The European Commission is proposing a comprehensive review of
environment policy. EIS reports that the thematic strategies in this area
stem from its new approach aiming to improve EU law-making, simplify
and clarify existing rules and propose less cumbersome framework
legislation where new legislation is deemed necessary. They seek to
reconcile strategic objectives with the interests of all economic
stakeholders (companies, public authorities), in the least binding and most
profitable way possible. This desire for 'better regulation' in the
environment field is outlined in a working paper adopted by the
Commission on September 28, which will serve as a basis for a policy
debate on the issue at the October 17 Environment Council.
The strategies adopted on September 21 on air pollution, waste prevention
and recycling and the sustainable use of pesticides will revise policy
and/or legislation in areas where there is a long-standing and extensive
body of Community law. The others will take up new environmental
challenges in an integrated perspective:
付he natural resources strategy will provide an analytical framework for
sustainable production and consumption policies, including waste
付he soil and marine strategies will complement air and water policy to
cover the primary environment media
付he urban strategy will examine the specific problems of the urban
environment and looks at sustainable transport, sustainable
construction and integrated environmental management
The 6th Action Programme on the Environment calls for seven thematic
strategies to be drawn up on: air pollution, the marine environment, the
sustainable use of resources, waste prevention and recycling, the
sustainable use of pesticides, soil protection and the urban environment.
During the general policy debate on environment policy on June 20, the
Commission confirmed that this approach will be maintained, providing
clear guidelines for Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas to gu
arantee compatibility with the Lisbon Agenda.
The Commission indicates that these strategies will provide a broad
analysis of issues by theme, looking at the impact on specific environment
themes (for example, air pollutants such as particulate matter affecting
health, loss of biodiversity), impacts which cut across environment themes
(climate change, biodiversity loss) and links between the environmental
impact and sector-specific policies (such as the impact of transport,
energy, agriculture on air, soil, water etc).
They aim to strike the right balance between environmental protection and
the Lisbon objectives of growth and jobs. To this end, they will look at a
broad range of options and a varied policy mix, including the use of
market-based instruments, technology deployment and innovation to deal
with the identified problems in a strategic and effective manner. Each
strategy will take the form of a package comprising an overall approach
towards the thematic issue presented in a Communication highlighting
issues and proposed solutions, legislative proposals for some of the
strategies, followed by an impact assessment.
Subsidiarity and proportionality
The strategies will look at a broad range of options and a varied policy mix
ranging from the status quo to regulatory alternatives and use of
market-based instruments. The principles of subsidiarity and
proportionality will be taken into account so it will be up to member states
to choose the most appropriate way to achieve desired objectives. By way
of example, the marine strategy will be tailored to take the diversity of the
various seas into account and suggests a regional eco-system.
The Commission also points out that the economic (including
competitiveness of EU industry) social and environmental impact of the
policy options are being examined, notably through a cost-benefit
analysis. These impact analyses will allow for the choice of preferred
options in which expected benefits outweigh costs. However, given that
costs of taking remedial action can be higher than taking timely innovative,
preventative action, the costs of inaction are also being examined.
The Commission emphasises that the drive to simplify environmental
regulation is not a novelty, as reflected in the adoption of the Water
Framework Directive in 2000 (Directive 60/2000/EC) which rationalised the
EU's water legislation by replacing seven earlier Directives on surface
water, fish water, shellfish water, groundwater and dangerous substances.
In those areas where there is existing legislation, such as air and waste,
the thematic strategies aim at simplification; out-of-date provisions will be
repealed or revised and any duplication cut away. The air pollution
strategy, for example, will consolidate five existing separate pieces of air
quality legislation in one single Directive.
Where possible, the thematic strategies will use existing instruments and
policies, rather than new proposals, to bring about new policy goals. For
example, the pesticides strategy is being designed in close cooperation
with the revision of Directive 91/414/EEC on the approval of active
substances in plant health products. Where the strategies require action
to be taken on particular products, these will be taken primarily on a
voluntary basis under the Integrated Product Policy, and where
eco-efficient innovations need to be promoted, the environmental
technologies action plan (COM(2004)38).
News article posted courtesy of Resource Recovery Forum: http://www.resourcesnotwaste.org/