The Fifth Environment Action Programme

The Fifth Action Programme was adopted in February 1993 and was applicable during the period 1993—2000. Its adoption took place almost one year after signature of the Treaty of Maastricht. Through this Treaty, the Community showed its increased interest and role in environmental protection in a broad sense.

The title of the Fifth Action Programme was ‘Towards Sustainability’.[1] [2] The concrete meaning of achieving sustainability was optimum reuse and recycling to avoid waste and prevent depletion of natural resources. Also sought were rationalisation of the production and use of energy, and finally a change in society’s consumption and behaviour patterns.

This programme differed in several ways from previous ones. For example, it directly addressed activities that exhaust natural resources and damage the environment instead of waiting until the problem arose; sought changes in current developments and practices that could negatively affect the environment; and aspired to achieve such behavioural changes through engaging all sectors of society in a spirit of shared responsibility. The Programme often refers to the concept of shared responsibility (between the public administration, public and private corporations, and the public) and to the principle of subsidiarity.

Unlike previous programmes, which almost exclusively relied upon legislative measures, the Fifth Action Programme presents four categories of instrument.

  • • Legislative instruments;
  • • Market-based instruments (internalisation of external costs with a view to drawing the attention of both the producers and consumers to responsible use of natural resources);
  • • Horizontal supporting instruments (training, information, development of cleaner technology);
  • • Financial supporting mechanisms (financial assistance to certain Member States).

The Programme was revised in 1998 in the light of, among other things, the requirements of Agenda 21 (the action programme adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992), the EU’s other international environmental obligations according to several international environmental agreements, and the requirements for adjustment of EU environmental legislation to the more stringent rules that Finland, Sweden, and Austria had set at the time of their accession to the European Union in 1995.®

  • [1] OJ [1993] C 138/11, para 2.
  • [2] Decision 2179/98/EC by the European Parliament and the Council on a Review of the EuropeanCommunity Action Programme for the Environment and a Sustainable Development called ‘Towardsa Sustainable Development’ [1998] OJ L 257/1.
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