Full implementation of environment legislation could save the EU economy €50bn every year in health costs and direct costs to the environment, according to the European Commission’s Environmental Implementation Review (EIR). The review also shows the UK is one of the “best-performing” in terms of resource efficiency.
According to Eurobarometer, 3 out of 4 citizens consider European laws necessary to protect the environment in their country, and 4 out of 5 agree that European institutions should be able to check whether the laws are being correctly applied.
The review aims to improve the application of EU rules on waste management, nature and biodiversity, air quality, water quality and management.
“Patchy and uneven implementation of environmental rules helps no one. Improving how environmental laws are applied benefits citizens, public administrations and the economy. This is where the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) comes in.”
The package includes: 28 country reports which map national strengths, opportunities and weaknesses; a Communication summarising the political conclusions of the country reports and examining common trends, in areas such as air quality, waste management and the circular economy, water quality and protecting nature and biodiversity; and recommendations for improvements to all member states.
The review shows that in the area of waste management, waste prevention remains an important challenge for all member states, while six have not managed to limit the landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste. Full compliance with EU waste policy by 2020 could create additional 400,000 jobs.
In 23 out of 28 member states, air quality standards are still exceeded – in total in over more than 130 cities across Europe. Transport is a main source for air quality problems. Action on reducing environmental noise, the second-worst environmental cause of ill health, should also be increased.
The launch of the EIR package will be followed by discussions with each member state, the launch of a peer-to-peer tool to allow them to help each other with expertise, and political debates in the Environment Council.
Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: “Patchy and uneven implementation of environmental rules helps no one. Improving how environmental laws are applied benefits citizens, public administrations and the economy. This is where the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) comes in.”
United Kingdom Among “Best-Performing”
In general, the UK is on track to meet the different waste targets, the reviews sates. As regards nature, the percentage of land designated under Natura 2000 is low; the marine designation process is slow. Air quality in the United Kingdom continues to give cause for concern, it says.
The main challenges the United Kingdom faces with regard to implementing EU environmental policy and law are:
- Improving air quality in urban areas, especially nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
- Tackling water quality, notably agricultural pollution nitrates) but also the remaining urban waste-water issues such as storm-water overflows.
- Completing the Natura 2000 designation process for marine sites, increasing the focus on protecting species and habitats outside the limited UK Natura 2000 terrestrial network, and developing an overall protection strategy for dispersed species such as bats and great crested newts.
It says the UK could perform better on issues where a sound knowledge base and good practices already exist. This applies in particular to recycling. It references WRAP as a potential basis for making further progress on waste and resource efficiency.
Where the UK leads in environmental implementation, it could share its innovative approaches more widely among other countries. Concrete examples include:
- A specialised bank, the Green Investment Bank, is in charge of attracting private investments in the green economy.
- The National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, which gives an overall picture of planned investment in infrastructure and is updated regularly, provides a sound basis for governmental decisions.
- The UK is a front runner in green public procurement.
- The UK has an advanced approach to natural capital accounting.
With regards to the circular economy and sustainable development, the review states the UK takes a structured approach. Sustainability is “well embedded” into public procurement and several programmes have been set up to improve resource efficiency, it says.
The UK is among the “best-performing” member states with regards to resource efficiency, having a stable increase since 2004.