New Environment Action Programme: The direction of travel

The 8th Environment Action Programme aims to build on the European Green Deal and set out the direction for EU environmental and climate policy action up to 2030, explains Demetris Papadakis.
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By Demetris Papadakis

Demetris Papadakis (CY, S&D) is a shadow rapporteur of the General Union Environment Action Programme to 2030

14 Jun 2021

The European Commission’s proposal for an 8th Environment Action Programme (8th EAP) aims to build on the European Green Deal, set out the direction for EU environmental and climate policy action up to 2030, and guide environmental policymaking by identifying priorities as well as setting long-term vision and goals.

The new 10-year programme strengthens the 7th EAP’s 2050 vision by aiming to accelerate the EU’s transition to a climate-neutral and resource-efficient clean and circular economy, in a just and inclusive way, while fully endorsing the environmental and climate objectives of the European Green Deal.

The 8th EAP should also provide a basis for achieving the environmental objectives of the UN’s Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The new programme has six thematic priority objectives and to achieve these, the Commission proposes a stronger implementation, monitoring and review process.

One of the key actions is a new monitoring framework - based on existing data, monitoring and reporting tools - to measure the EU’s and Member States’ progress on the implementation of the programme’s objectives.

As shadow rapporteur for the S&D Group on this report, I think that as it stands, the proposal lacks the overall ambition and forward-looking actions needed to tackle environmental degradation and achieve the EU’s long-term aim of ‘living well, within the means of our planet.’ 

“The thematic priority objectives should build on, not be limited to, the already agreed 2030 Green Deal commitments”

The 8th EAP proposal aims to put forward the unestablished and undefined concept of ‘regenerative economy’ as a new economic model for the EU. This concept seems to rely heavily on conventional models of economic growth and continues to be far removed from balancing social, environmental and economic sustainability.

Instead, the proposal should help trigger a shift towards a ‘sustainable wellbeing economy’, combining prosperity with the possibility of social progress within planetary boundaries - as defined by the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. 

The 8th EAP is an opportunity to embed the idea that the EU needs to shift to a sustainable wellbeing economy. This starts from the idea that public interests should determine economics, and not the other way around.

A sustainable wellbeing economy monitors and values what truly matters: our health, nature, education, and communities. Furthermore, the Commission’s proposal does not provide a concrete pathway on how the 2050 vision will be achieved.

The current thematic priority objectives are based on the right themes but are not specific and measurable enough to allow the 8th EAP to support the 2050 vision.

The thematic priority objectives of the 8th EAP should be improved to allow it to set a direction for EU policymaking, and to provide greater accountability during monitoring and evaluation.

The thematic priority objectives should build on, not be limited to, the already agreed 2030 Green Deal commitments. With the 8th EAP, the opportunity must be seized to put forward a strategy all the way up to 2030 that supports the EU in meeting its domestic and international environmental commitments, while ensuring prosperity and wellbeing for all.

For this, it must go beyond simply repeating the existing commitments and actions under the Green Deal, which are limited only to the mandate of the von der Leyen Commission which ends in 2024. 

It should provide specific and measurable targets, put in place the necessary mechanisms to track progress and adjust actions when needed, and create the enabling conditions for successful implementation.

We need to create the conditions and governance to achieve the 8th EAP and to reinforce the commitment from the 7th EAP, which aimed to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the need to build a healthier planet for healthy people is greater than ever. We need to address climate-related and environmental challenges across various sectors”

We also need to develop tools to ensure better implementation of the EU’s body of environmental laws. No programme can be implemented in practice without the involvement of citizens. Education and direct citizen participation through local government should also be prioritised.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the need to build a healthier planet for healthy people is greater than ever. We need to address climate-related and environmental challenges across various sectors. 

To secure clean air, water and soil, healthy ecosystems and a healthy living environment for all people, the EU needs to better prevent, remedy, monitor, report, and react on pollution.

Zero pollution ambition needs to be present in all EU policy development and we also need to strengthen links between environmental protection, sustainable development and people’s wellbeing, in line with the United Nations’ efforts.

Pollution harms our health and our environment. It is the largest cause of multiple mental and physical diseases and of premature deaths, especially among children, people with certain medical conditions and the elderly.

In addition to affecting people’s health, pollution is one of the main reasons for the loss of biodiversity. We simply need to do more to achieve our goals.

Read the most recent articles written by Demetris Papadakis - EU should take the lead in refugee crisis

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