European Commission proposes Environmental Action Programme to guide EU policy through 2020, address climate change; steps include phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies, shifting taxation to pollution from labor

BRUSSELS , November 29, 2012 (press release) – The European Commission today put forward a proposal for an Environment Action Programme (EAP) to guide EU environment policy up to 2020. Coming shortly after its recommendations for short term growth [see IP/12/1274], which emphasise the need for ensuring not just the growth of today, but also tomorrow, the Commission has now made proposals aimed at protecting nature, stimulating sustainable growth, creating new jobs and setting Europe on a path to prosperity and health within the limits of the planet.

Responsibility for achieving the programme's goals is shared by the EU and its Member States. Concrete steps to be taken include phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies, shifting taxation from labour to pollution, drawing up partnership agreements between Member States and the Commission on implementation of EU environmental law, and developing a system for tracking environment-related expenditure in the EU budget.

Environment Commissioner Janez Poto─Źnik said: "The new Action Programme sets out the path for Europe to become a place where people live in a safe and healthy natural environment, where economic progress is based on a sustainable, green economy and where ecological resilience has been achieved.”

Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: "We cannot wait until the economic crisis is over before we tackle the resources, environmental and climate crises. We must address all these at the same time and so include climate and environmental concerns into all our policies. This strategy gives businesses and politicians the long-term view we very much need for making the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon society in Europe."

A programme for action

In the Action Programme the Commission identifies nine priority objectives, including:

Protecting nature and strengthening ecological resilience

Boosting sustainable, resource-efficient, low-carbon growth, and

Effectively addressing environment-related threats to health.

The Programme sets out a framework to support the achievement of these objectives through, inter alia, better implementation of EU environment law, state of the art science, securing the necessary investments in support of environment and climate change policy, and improving the way that environmental concerns and requirements are reflected in other policies.

The programme also aims to boost efforts to help EU cities become more sustainable, and improve the EU's capacity to meet regional and global environment and climate challenges.

Next steps

The Commission's proposal will be considered by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Once agreed, the new EAP will become EU law.


The proposed programme, the seventh of its kind, builds on the significant achievements of 40 years of EU environment policy, and draws on a number of recent strategic initiatives in the field of environment, including the Resource Efficiency Roadmap, the 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and the Low Carbon Economy Roadmap. It should secure the commitment of EU institutions, Member States, regional and local administrations and other stakeholders to a common agenda for environment policy action up to 2020.

General environment action programmes have guided the development of EU environment policy since the early seventies. The Sixth EU Environment Action Programme covered the period 2002-2012.

While many EU Member States are struggling to cope with the economic crisis, the attendant need for structural reforms offers new opportunities for the EU to move rapidly onto a more sustainable path. The new environment action programme points the way towards making the most of these opportunities.

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