The Sixth Environment Action Programme

The Sixth Environment Action Programme was adopted by a decision of the Parliament and the Council in July 2002.[1] [2] [3] [4] It covered a period of ten years, from July 2002 until 2012. Compared with the previous programmes, this programme, which consists of eight chapters, has a new character. It presents the environment dimension in a comprehensive strategy for sustainable development (this concept and the EU’s strategy in this area will be further discussed presently). An explicit objective of the strategy is to decouple environmental pressures and economic development.11

Objectives and priorities are classified within four comprehensive policy areas: climate change; nature and biodiversity; environment, health, and quality of life; and natural resources and waste. The Sixth Action Programme also provides the means to achieve the objectives. These include the promotion of effective implementation and enforcement of EU environmental legislation; the promotion of better standards for permission, inspection, supervision, and enforcement by the Member States; and a more systematic review of the implementation of environmental legislation in the Member States. The integration of environmental protection requirements into all other policies, set out in the current Article 11 TFEU, is an important part of the Programme.

One comprehensive objective of the Programme is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human) influences on the earth’s climate.

The measures under the Programme should include the development of thematic strategies and the evaluation of existing strategies for priority environmental areas that require a broad approach.

In this programme also, as in the Fifth Programme, the Commission was assigned to assess progress and prospects during the Programme’s fourth year.12 The assessment, which was presented in 2007,13 did not make encouraging reading. The Commission underlined, among other things, that weather variations related to climate change had significant economic impacts, that the loss of biological diversity was continuing at an alarming pace, and that consumption and production patterns in the EU were generally unsustainable. It also noted that the EU was still far from achieving the objective of decoupling economic development from the negative effects caused by the use of resources.

The conclusion was that if resource use continued on the existing pattern, environmental destruction and depletion of natural resources would continue unabated.

  • [1] Decision 1600/2002/EC by the European Parliament and the Council on the establishment ofthe Community’s Sixth Action Programme for the Environment [2002] OJ L 242/1.
  • [2] Ibid, Art 2. 12 Ibid, Art 11.
  • [3] 13 Communication of the Commission—Mid-term review of the Sixth Community Environment
  • [4] Action Programme (30 April 2007) COM (2007) 225 final.
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