On February 3rd, the European Commission published its environmental law review, highlighting the importance of full implementation for healthy and sustainable economic development.
According to the report:
“The EU's environmental policy and legislation bring undeniable benefits: they protect, preserve and improve the environment for present and future generations, and preserve the quality of life of EU citizens. Weak implementation generates high societal, economic and environmental costs and it creates an uneven playing field for businesses. The importance of the correct implementation of the EU's environmental acquis is also reflected in the Seventh Environmental Action Programme.”
The Commission also sheds light on examples of expected benefits from good implementation by member states:
In the area of waste management, full compliance by 2020 can create 400,000 new jobs and an extra annual turnover in the waste treatment industries of EUR 42 billion;
In the area of water protection and management, implementation of the law will improve the quality of water bodies to a ‘good’ status ranking, and will generate combined annual benefits of at least EUR 2,8 billion;
In relation to nature conservation, fully implementing the laws and policies the Natura 2000 network delivers estimated gains of EUR 200-300 billion per year across the EU and full implementation of Natura 2000 would lead to the creation of 174,000 additional jobs.
The report highlights three policy sectors which require strong integration: Air and mobility, water with nature and food, and nature with rural land use and urbanization. It is worth noting that the report also explores fiscal measures, such as environmental taxation and the phasing out of environmentally harmful subsidies.
In the national reports, the Commission highlights the most pressing challenges faced by member states in specific policy areas, primarily in relation to air pollution, waste management and nature conservation (Natura 2000). Avoiding a name-and-shame approach, the national reports also bring to the light points of excellence, which the member states can take pride in and use as starting points for further improvements.
Bulgaria needs to address high air pollution and pressing waste management problems, and also achieve the proper implementation of the nature protection directives. The national report on Bulgaria finds the following areas for improvement:
- Protection of human health by enforcing effective and efficient solutions to reduce air pollution.
- Investing in the efficient collection and treatment of urban waste water.
- Ensuring the sound enforcement of nature protection legislation.
France needs to address major air and water quality challenges and improve its policies on biodiversity conservation. The national report on France finds the following areas for improvement:
- “Improving air quality by taking forward-looking, speedy and effective action to reach EU-based air pollution limit values.
- Implementing the necessary measures to improve the water quality, notably by reducing the pollution by nitrates.
- Effectively protecting biodiversity by ensuring the enforcement of the law to protect habitats and species.”
Greece needs to manage its waste and develop Natura 2000. The national report on Greece finds the following areas for improvement:
- Waste management: closure of illegal landfills, treatment of hazardous waste) as a matter of absolute priority.
- Nature protection: An efficient and functioning national system of protected areas, “raising awareness about Natura 2000 and creating incentives for investments promoting its benefits, improving the capacity of competent authorities, ensuring effective environmental assessments at plan and project level, and improving enforcement of legislation on the ground.”
- Urban waste water treatment: Full implementation of the directive, “giving priority to those agglomerations that are subject to an infringement case”.
Germany faces problems of low air quality and water pollution. The national report on Germany finds the following areas for improvement:
- Improving air quality (NOx, PM10) which could contribute considerably to improving citizens’ health and quality of life.
- Addressing water pollution, in particular from nitrates, to improve the groundwater quality and the water quality in the Baltic and North Sea.
- Completing the designation process for Special Areas of Conservation, putting in place clearly defined conservation objectives and measures for the site and providing adequate resources.
Italy faces serious challenges in the areas of waste and land use management. The national report on Italy finds the following areas for improvement.
- Waste management and water infrastructure, including waste-water treatment, which are persistent concerns particularly in southern Italy.
- Management of land uses, flooding and air pollution in the centre and in the northern regions.
- Completing the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and improving the conservation status of habitats and species by fully implementing the legislation on Natura 2000 and ensuring better integration of EU funds and more strategic planning for investments.
Portugal needs to address serious problems in the areas of waste management and fulfil its potential in developing the circular economy. The national report on Italy identifies the following areas for improvement:
- Waste management and developing the potential of the circular economy.
- Enhancing the effective protection of the Natura 2000 network.
- Following up on the implementation of marine strategies to meet a good environmental status of marine waters.
Spain is called to pursue improvements in the areas of water management, waste water treatment and the potential of increasing green taxation / reducing high-footprint subsidies, and developing the circular economy.
The Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) was launched by the Commission in May 2016, as a two-year cycle of analysis and dialogue aiming to improve the implementation of environmental policies and laws.
Read more: The European Implementation Review package