The Seventh Environment Action Programme

The Seventh Environment Action Programme was adopted in November 2013, and is to cover the period up to 2020. Its title is ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. One major difference between this programme and the previous ones is that although the formal period of its application is limited to seven years, it provides a more long-term dimension, and sets out a vision long beyond 2020— indeed, a vision for the 2050s:

In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.[1] [2]

The structure of the Programme is similar to that of the Sixth Action Programme in dividing the guidelines into nine thematic priorities. The priority areas in the Sixth Programme are presented in an updated and more comprehensive manner. Protection of the Union’s natural capital, protection of human health, effective implementation of EU environmental legislation, increased knowledge through dissemination of environmental information, internalisation of environmental costs for any societal activity, better integration of environmental concerns into other policy areas, and more effective tackling of international environmental and climate change challenges are among the priorities of the Programme.

One major action area is the creation of conditions that will help transform the EU into a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy. This goal should be achieved through measures on two fronts. On the one hand, efforts should focus on fulfilling what are called 20-20-20 targets, that is, climate and energy goals set out by the Union to be achieved by 202015 (see further Chapter 11). On the other hand, the environmental impact of consumption should be reduced. The latter relates particularly to problems such as the increase of food waste and the need to use biomass in a sustainable way. Thus, the Programme has a special focus on turning waste into resource and calls for indicators and targets for resource efficiency.

Another action area, which has received more attention in the present Programme, is urban planning and the sustainability of the Union’s cities. The point of departure is that by 2020 some 80 per cent of the Union’s citizens are expected to be living in or near a city. Urban areas normally have similar environmental problems, including poor air quality, high noise levels, greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, and waste. The ambition is to expand initiatives that support innovations and best practice in cities, and ensure that by 2020 most cities in the Union are implementing policies for sustainable urban planning and design.

The Seventh Environment Action Programme certainly supplements and improves all the ideas and policies that found expression in the Sixth. It provides rich and solid ground for Member States to find necessary guidance for shaping their immediate environmental policies. It also equips the Commission with the means to plan proposals for necessary environmental legislation well beyond 2020.

  • [1] The Seventh Environment Action Programme (n 3), para 1.
  • [2] Subsequently the European Council has endorsed a binding EU target of at least 40 per cent domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990, as well as targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency. European Council, 2014, European Council (23 and 24 October2014): Conclusions on 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework, SN 79/14 (23 October 2014).
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