The 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP) is a strategic document that will guide the EU environmental policy until 2030. The EU treaties foresee its approval by Ordinary Legislative Procedure with consultation of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).
The CoR has already published a study and has approved an Own-initiative opinion on the 8th EAP that could provide inputs for the new legislative opinion.
The general objective of the opinion is to assess the proposed EAP and try to amend it, especially on aspects for which there is a particular importance of the local and regional dimension.
An element of particular importance is the cooperation between the European Commission and the CoR. The 7th EAP included a reference to the Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment, an initiative for cooperation between the CoR and the Directorate General for Environment of the European Commission.
Since this opinion is of strategic general nature, it offers the possibility to provide CoR positions on the EU environmental policy in general, also in connection with the European Green Deal and on how local and regional authorities can contribute to its implementation.
Note on approval of Environment Action Programme
The Environment Action Programme (EAP) is a strategic document aimed at guiding EU environment and climate policies in the long term. The duration of EAPs varied. The new programme is the 8th will cover the period till 2030.
The CoR had adopted an own-initiative opinion in 2019 (preceded by a study in 2018) in preparation of the EAP.
The CoR adopted a legislative opinion in 2021.
EAP approval by Ordinary Legislative Procedure is foreseen by the Treaties.
On 10 March 2022 the European Parliament has adopted a text, result of an inter-institutional agreement that was then approved by the Council in 1st reading without modifications on 29 March.
The final text includes multiple elements in line with the amendments proposed by the CoR opinion, in some cases using text proposed by the CoR, also as a result of inter-institutional follow up work.
In general a stronger focus on policy integration and coherence and on improving implementation appear in line with the generic CoR position.
In the analysis below:
"CoR AM" indicates a legislative amendment proposed by the CoR opinion.
"CoR Point" indicates a point of the policy recommendations of the CoR opinion.
Final text 6 April 2022:
Main specific elements:
Cooperation with the CoR
The most important element is the addition of new point specifically including cooperation with the CoR.
Art.3(ae): *"strengthening cooperation between all Union institutions on climate and environment policy, including between the Commission and the Committee of the Regions in the framework of their enhanced cooperation, and exploring how to improve dialogue and information pooling;"*
This text reflects the message of CoR AM 4, the reference to the Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment has been substituted with a reference to the enhanced cooperation, reflecting recent inter-institutional developments.
Specificities of EU regions
CoR AM 10, CoR Point 26 and CoR Point 27 proposed to take into account specificities of all typologies of local communities such as urban and rural (already mentioned in the EAP proposal) but also coastal, mountain, island, archipelagic and outermost areas.
Multiple changes in the final text include references to regional specificities, especially:
Recital 35, Art.3(u) and Art.3(ad) add specific references to outermost regions.
Recital 15 adds references to the diversity of situation in the European regions.
Recital 32 adds a reference to coastal ecosystems (coastal areas were mentioned also by CoR AM 3 reason as an example of vulnerable areas).
Multi-level governance approach
CoR AM 8 proposed a new point stating *"ensuring the full participation of, and cooperation with, local and regional authorities across all dimensions of environmental policy-making through a collaborative and multi-level governance approach;".*
Multi-level governance was also covered by CoR Point 17.
The final text adds a new point, Art.3(ad) that states "*encouraging cooperation in the development and implementation of strategies, policies or legislation related to the 8th EAP and ensuring the full participation of regional and local authorities in urban and rural areas, including in outermost regions, across all dimensions of environmental policy-making through a collaborative and multi-level approach and ensuring that regional and local communities have adequate resources for implementation on the ground;*"
This point replicates most of CoR AM 8.
Recognition that "As environment policy is highly decentralised, action to attain the priority objectives of the 8th EAP should be taken at different levels of governance, i.e. at Union, national, regional and local levels, with a collaborative approach to multi-level governance." is also in Recital 35 (already present in the original proposal).
Adequate resources for Local and Regional Authorities
CoR AM 5 proposed to change what is now Art.3(u) adding "*ensuring the right synergies, while making sure that sufficient investment can be allocated at the level where it is most needed and most effectively employed, ensuring that local and regional communities have adequate resources for implementation on the ground;*".
The final text adds a reference to sufficient investment (without specifying the level).
The final sentence of CoR AM 5 has instead been added to new point, Art.3(ad) that includes "*ensuring that regional and local communities have adequate resources for implementation on the ground;*".
Mid-term Review and post Green Deal measures
The new EAP, in comparison to past ones, has only a limited focus on specific measures. Specific measures have been mainly included in the Green Deal that covers mainly the current legislative term (till 2024) while the EAP will cover the period till 2030.
CoR Point 3 indicates that this should not be a precedent and ask for a clarification, in context of a mid-term review, on new measures.
In Recital 42 and 43 and Art.5, the final text foresees that, in light of the mid-term review of the EAP, the Commission shall present, where appropriate, a legislative proposal for adding an annex to the present 8th EAP, for the period after 2025. This is in line with CoR Point 3.
New Monitoring Framework
In general the proposal of a monitoring framework (supported by CoR Point 20) is kept. This aspect was covered mainly by CoR AM 11, CoR Point 20, CoR Point 21 and CoR Point 22. The importance of monitoring was included also in CoR Point 1.
Art.4.1 and Art.4.5(h): The final text adds a statement that information "*shall be made publicly available and easily accessible". CoR AM 11 added a references to the part on monitoring asking to "improve the availability and interoperability of data at local and regional level*". The final text does not include references to the local and regional level but it has similar elements.
Art.4.3: The final text adds a reference to minimizing administrative burden. This was requested by CoR Point 22.
Art.4.5(f): CoR AM 11 included multiple references to the local and regional level for the whole Art.4. These were not included specifically. However, Art.4.5(f) is a new point stating: "*contributing to closing critical knowledge gaps on ecological tipping points, while taking into account geographical and ecological differences across regions;*".
Art.3(w) and Art.3(z): Art.3(w) on knowledge was covered by CoR AM 7.
The final text includes the first proposal of CoR AM 7. "ensuring that environmental policies and actions, *at the Union, national, regional and local levels, are* based on the best available scientific knowledge"
Furthermore, the final text adds a reference to indigenous and local knowledge.
The second part of CoR AM 7 included a reference to "*continuous improvement of scientific knowledge on the basis of indicators comparable at regional level, in order to inform decision-making*".
This was partly integrated in new point, Art.3(z) that includes also a references to "*ensuring that indicator sets are comparable at all levels of policy-making*;".
Communication and education
CoR AM 4 proposed promoting communication activities and raising awareness especially among young people. CoR Point 24 supported greater efforts in environmental education and in youth projects to raise environmental awareness;
These elements were partially integrated in the final text. Art.3(ab) includes the importance of communication, specifying "at all levels".
It also mentions lifelong environmental education. It does not mention specifically youth.
Art.3(ab): "*raising awareness about the importance of achieving the priority objectives set out in Article 2, as well as strengthening the capacity of citizens to act through promoting, inter alia, debate and communication at all levels, lifelong environmental education, civic involvement and community-led action;*"
Ecosystems, protected areas and Nature-Based Solutions (NBS)
CoR AM 2 on Art.2.1 includes the proposal to add a reference to upgrading ecosystem services.
The final text adds to Art.2.1 a reference to ecosystems thriving.
CoR AM 3 is also partially integrated in Art.2.2(e). The final text integrates the two proposals of the CoR in a rearranged text.
It adds a reference to "*ecosystems and their functions" in line with the addition of "ecosystem services*" proposed by the CoR.
The final text also specifies "*inside and outside protected areas*" in reference to protecting, preserving and restoring biodiversity, as proposed by the CoR.
The final text adds multiple other references to ecosystem services (Recitals 24, 26, 31 and 32, Art.2.2(e) and partially Art.2.2(b), Art.3(q) and Art.3(x)).
CoR Point 7 proposed to increase the use of NBS. The final text adds references to NBS in new Recital 30 and in Art.3(r) and keeps with some modifications the reference in art.3(q).
CoR AM 3: The CoR proposed an addition on impact assessment and impact monitoring. This was not added in the proposed point. However, other additions on impact assessment have been included in Recital 18 and, especially, in Art.3(ac) that also refers to communities.
Access to justice
Recital 35 includes additional references to information and public authorities at all levels of decision-making mentioning that appear in line with CoR Point 29.
New elements on local and regional aspects not proposed by the CoR
At the beginning of Art.3, the final text adds a new specification mentioning local and regional authorities: "The attainment of the priority objectives *set out in Article 2* shall require *the following from the Commission, Member States, regional and local authorities and stakeholders, as appropriate:*"
The CoR opinion generically remarked about the importance of Local and Regional Authorities (e.g. in the reason for AM 11) but did not include this specific element.
CoR AM 6 proposed a reference to socially fair transition for all regions in connection to phasing out harmful subsidies. The final text did not include this (it includes more generic references to socially fair transitions in other parts of the text). The final text adds the specification that the phasing out should be done also at regional and local level. It also specifies that the phasing out should be done without delay. This change does not appear to be fully in line with the CoR position.
Connections with other opinions:
The final text includes also some potential connection with recent opinions on Zero Pollution, on Gender equality and Climate, on Biodiversity and on Chemicals. Further analyses on these aspects will be done to be sent to the respective rapporteurs and potentially to be included in Kiklos.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- welcomes the 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP), which defines a strategic approach for environment and climate policies to 2030 and keeps a long-term vision for 2050 for living well within the planetary boundaries with a focus on better implementation and monitoring; calls for the EAP to have a strong complementary role to the European Green Deal and to support the EU's green recovery;
- argues that the EAP should aim to increase the connection between environment policy and health. A healthy living approach needs to be at the basis of all EU policies promoting human health, a healthy planet, a healthy economy and a healthy society with opportunities for all;
- considers that the "do not harm" principle, as well as being a healthy living approach, should guide the recovery and resilience plans to ensure policy integration and coherence;
- calls for strengthening the cooperation between the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions (CoR), in the framework of the Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment and calls for the inclusion of the platform in the EAP;
- supports creating a new monitoring framework with due regard towards existing ones. Advocates the involvement of the CoR and Local and Regional Authorities in the consultation process to define the key indicators to ensure that the local and regional dimension is adequately taken into account;
- calls for the EU to promote a holistic place-based and area-oriented approach taking into account the specific challenges and strengths of all typologies of communities such as urban and rural, but also coastal, mountain, island, archipelagic and outermost areas and considering the interactions between communities and their surrounding areas, in particular hinterlands of urban areas;
- urges that no precedent be set for future EAPs by the fact that the 8th EAP includes no measures; underlines that the Green Deal provides measures only till 2024 and calls for a mid-term clarification;
- calls for a well-functioning multi-level governance framework and encourages all the levels of governance to promote cross-administrative, interregional, intermunicipal and cross-border cooperation to implement the 8th EAP;
- calls for the full integration of environment and climate policies, and policies that enable a circular economy, into the budgetary, economic and social actions of the EU and reminds that the green recovery efforts should take into consideration territorial disparities and challenges and ensure that no community is left behind.