Ontwikkelingen in het Europees milieubeleid

Milieudonderdag 29 januari 2009 13:52

Hans Blokland (ChristenUnie-SGP) heeft op 29 januari in Maastricht een lezing gehouden voor de European Institute for Public Administration (EIPA) over de ontwikkelingen in het Europees milieubeleid. Hier kunt u de lezing (engelstalig) vinden.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to be invited here as vice-chairman of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of the European Parliament in order to speak about and discuss with you the future of environmental policy from the Parliament's point of view . I would like to express my thanks in particular to those who organized this conference and those who invited me to speak here. The overall theme of this conference is called "Developments in European Environmental Policies". There is a two-way explanation possible of the word ‘ development'. First possible way is negative development, second possible way is positive development. Even in December 2008 we have heard both explanations, regarding the EU Climate policy. However, I would like to emphasize today the positive side of this medal by highlighting the priorities in the European Parliament for the Near Future.

After this introduction I'd like to focus your attention at first on the Committee on Environment in the Parliament itself. Bridging the gap between procedures and content I will explain the steering role of the 6th Environmental Action Plan. After this I will look at the near future in more detail, with the main focus on 2009 just before and immediately after the elections. Before I end up with a conclusion I will draw your attention on the implementation of EU environmental law.

Within the European Parliament the most important committee with regard to the environment is the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). In 2007 the Temporary Committee on Climate Change has been established, which deals with all issues around climate change with exemption of legislative proposals. This committee has a mandate until this month. Next week we have an important debate in which the conclusions drawn up by this committee will be discussed. I think that it is important to sketch the history of environmental policy in the European Parliament, before I'm going to talk about the future of its environmental policy.

The European Parliament is split up in several parliamentary committees, organized by policy area. The Environment Committee is one of them. The European Parliament decided in 1973 to set up this committee. During the following years the Environment Committee expanded in size and power. In 1987 there was a generally acknowledged turning point with the entry into force of the Single European Act. This Act introduced the new cooperation procedure with regard to the European Parliament, especially on the area of environment. This procedure extended the power of the Environmental Committee.

An even more important act took place in 1992 in Maastricht, the place where we are today. The Treaty of Maastricht established the co-decision procedure which gives the European Parliament even more power, especially on a few policy area's, such as the environment. This stresses the importance of looking in the past when debating about the future of environmental policy.
The Treaty of Amsterdam, 1997, heightened the profile of European Parliament environmental policy. Due to changes to the preamble and Article 2 of the EU Treaty the principle of sustainable development is strengthened, so that it is now one of the EU's main objectives.
A clause which has been moved by the Treaty of Amsterdam from the environmental part of the Treaty to the beginning of the Treaty says: "Environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Community policies and activities in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development". This stresses the increased importance of environmental policy.

The extended powers based on the new treaties gave the Environment Committee more opportunities to get grip on EU environmental legislation. The work of the committee became more and more challenging. This will not change in the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty.

6th EAP
Due to the fact the European Parliament has no right of initiative the work in the Parliament depends heavily on the priorities of the European Commissions' work programme.

A very important document in our parliamentary work is the 6th Environmental Action Plan of the European Commission, which covers the environmental policy in the whole period from 2001 until 2010. It is the basis for the future of environmental policy in the EU.

The Environmental Committee in the EP succeeded, at the front stage of the Action Plan, in increasing the value of the document by proposing provisions for, for example, phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies, for Kyoto emission targets and for 7 thematic strategies for tackling environmental priorities.

The 6th Environmental Action Plan contains 4 priority areas:
- Climate change
- Nature and Biodiversity
- Environment and health
- Natural resources and waste

The 6th EAP furthermore calls for seven thematic strategies. These thematic strategies are on:
- Air quality - finalized
- Waste prevention and recycling - finalized
- Marine environment - finalized
- Soil - pending in council (especially the directive)
- Pesticides - finalized
- Natural resources - finalized
- Urban Environment - not yet started

View on the near future
This year will be a quite different year compared to the past few years. 2009 will be characterized by the election of a new European Parliament in June and the establishment of a new European Commission in Autumn. This has huge impact on both our parliamentary activities and the Commissions' activities. In practice this means that there is a slow-down in the making of legislation from about April until October. It also means that we in Parliament have to finalize every legislative procedure before the elections, because the new elected Parliament will have a new mandate. This also implies that the European Commission is at this stage very reluctant with proposing new legislation. Both institutions will continue their activities in the fall of 2009. Nevertheless, we have a road to go on several dossiers before the elections take place, and we can have a view in the near future immediately after the elections. I would like to mention a few of the most important things the Parliament will work on this year.

Climate Change
First of all climate policy. A couple of years ago the interest in climate policy was characterized by an enormous increase, due to the publications of Sir Nicholas Stern, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore. The European Council has set ambitious goals in spring 2007 and has repeated this in spring 2008, such as reducing the amount of CO2 with 20 or 30%. I consider 2006 and 2007 as a turning point in the area of environmental policy.
Environmental policy has got a strong impulse, although it was already in the way upwards during the years before. The main focuses are how to protect against the negative consequences of climate change (adaptation) and how to prevent climate change (mitigation). The European Parliament wants to get a high level of protection for their citizens and the citizens outside the EU. I think this trend will not stop in the coming year, although some Member States express major concerns due to the current financial crises. What we however see is a positive impact of the climate discourse in other areas of environmental policy. The climate is incorporated and integrated in many proposals. Climate is mentioned specifically in the new to be ratified Treaty of Lisbon. It's the first time in history that climate is an issue of importance in a European Treaty. It is a task for the members of the European Parliament, and especially for those in the environment and climate committees inside it, to take care for those which they represent. Last December, and the years before, the European Parliament sent a delegation to the meetings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), better known as the UN Climate Conference, which took place in Poznan in 2008. 2009 will be one of the most important years, because a new Climate protocol is to be expected in December in Copenhagen. This will also be an important moment for our activities in the ENVI committee in the Parliament.

A new protocol should be based on several requirements:
- a long term goal of limiting average global temperature increase to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, which means reducing global Green House Gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to the 1990 level;
- binding targets for all industrialised countries;
- broader participation in reduction efforts, in particular by emerging economies through fair and proportionate targets;
- global "cap and trade" system;
- strengthened financial mechanisms for adaptation, with special attention to water resources;
- effective incentives, including market-based instruments if appropriate, to avoid deforestation and land-use emissions, including promoting sustainable agricultural practices;
- financial and other instruments for clean development and technology transfer and deployment;
- agreement by 2009 at the latest.

In the early 1980s, scientists observed a significant decrease in the concentration of ozone in the stratosphere over the Antarctic, which became widely known as the "ozone hole". At its peak - during spring in the turn of the century - the ozone loss was most severe around the
poles, although concentrations were significantly reduced in other places as well. Increased UV radiation has an adverse impact on human health, e.g. by increasing the incidence of skin cancers and cataracts, and on ecosystems. As early as 1987, governments agreed on the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, thereby starting the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) in all signatories following a set timetable. The main ODS are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and methyl bromide. In 2007, the Parties (including the
European Community) celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Montreal Protocol, hailing it as one of the most successful of all international environmental agreements. By then, all 191
Parties had achieved a 95% reduction in consumption of ODS compared with the baselines set. In its latest report, released in 2007, the Scientific Assessment Panel (SAP) established under the Montreal Protocol confirmed that the ozone layer is slowly recovering thanks to the control measures introduced by the Protocol. Besides the positive effects on public health, these controls will help to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 100 billion tonnes of CO2 between 1990 and 2010. Commission proposal Regulation (EC) No 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer is the European Communities' main instrument for implementing the Montreal Protocol. The Commission recently proposed a recast of this regulation. In the European Parliament I have been appointed as rapporteur on this subject. This recast proposal generally maintains the scope of the existing Regulation. The proposed
Regulation would apply to substances listed in Annexes I and II. Annex II provides flexibility to establish certain monitoring measures for substances found to have ozone-depleting potential or control measures where this potential is significant. The main objectives of this revision are:
(1) to simplify and recast the Regulation whilst at the same time reducing any unnecessary administrative burden in line with the Commission's commitment to better regulation;
(2) to ensure compliance with the Montreal Protocol as adjusted in 2007; and
(3) to make sure that the future key challenges are addressed, in order to ensure the timely recovery of the ozone layer and to avoid adverse
impacts on human health and ecosystems.

These key challenges are:
1. Release of "banked" ODS/GHG emissions into the atmosphere - Because the Protocol has been focusing on banning ODS production, significant amounts of ODS remain stored or "banked" in products and equipment (e.g. in insulation foams, refrigerants and airconditioning systems).

2. Exempted uses of ODS -According to the a recent Commission Decision concerning the non-inclusion of methyl bromide in Annex I of Directive 91/414/EEC (concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market) should result in a direct prohibition of the use of methyl bromide. Halons are even of much more concern because they have the highest potential to deplete the ozone layer (and also a very high greenhouse effect). The use of halons should therefore be restricted as much as possible, which was already the intention in the existing Regulation.

3. New ODS - New scientific evidence has revealed that the ODP of certain chemical substances not currently controlled by the Protocol is substantially higher, whilst marketing of these substances is growing rapidly.

In this way the EU can be more ambitious for itself and take a leading role in the world. This will protect us more against the destructive effects of too much UV-radiation, and decrease the greenhouse effect/climate change. My report has been adopted in the ENVI committee last week. We now have to negotiate with the Czech Presidency to reach an agreement in first reading in the coming months.

Last week the ENVI committee in the Parliament voted upon the recast of the IPPC directive. This directive on integrated pollution prevention and control sets binding sector-specific emission limits for industrial installations.

The limits would be based on " best available techniques" associated emission levels, the so-called BAT-AEL's. These are adopted by committees of member states by technical comitology procedures. The so adoped limits act as a European Safety Network (ESN), from which plant operators cannot deviate. This is a major difference compared with the original Commission proposal.

Furthermore the ENVI committee decided that inspections will be carried out less frequently. Large combustion plants will get stricter emission limits for titanium dioxide and stricter deadlines for applying new SO2 and NOx emission limits. The scope of the directive has, according to the vote results, to be extended to smaller large combustion plants between 20 and 50 megawatts.

The revision of this directive is a very difficult and sensitive one. This means a lot of work to be done on it in the next months when the negotiations with the Council will start. There is no insurance that this negotiation process will be completed before the elections.

Next year
Due to the decreasing parliamentary and Commission activities in 2009, until at least a few months after the elections, we can highlight only a few more pieces of legislation which will play a role of any importance in the next few months. Currently upcoming in Parliament are several eco dossiers. Amongst them are proposals for a recast of eco-design requirements for energy related products and for a revision of the Community eco-label scheme. An important piece of legislation is a Regulation on the obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the market, which has to contribute strongly to the struggle against illegal logging of timber. The Commission also presented the new Strategic Energy Review, which deals with strategic energy policy of the EU. Despite the Committee on Environment in the Parliament will not be the committee responsible for it (it will be the Industry Committee) it's partly related to our work in the ENVI committee because the proposal deals with energy mix and energy efficiency. We further expect the European Commission to come up with a White paper on adaptation to Climate Change and to come up with the revision of the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NEC-Directive). It is meant to limit emissions of acidifying and eutrophying pollutants and ozone precursors to improve the protection in the EU of the environment and human health against risks of adverse effects from acidification. Lastly, an interesting question whether the Commission will come up with an new, 7th , Environmental Action Plan as being a follow up to the 6th Environmental Action Plan. Last but not least. Despite the Parliament has no right of initiative, it several times explicitly asked the Commission to come up with legislation on bio-waste and construction and demolition waste, in the light of the overall waste legislation. Till now there are no signals that this kind of legislation will be published. The Parliament will continue to press, in so far possible, the Commission to undertake action in this area.

One of the aspects of future environmental policy is the implementation of EU legislation. Implementation and evaluation are important aspects which belong to the process of policy making. In theories about public administration you cannot find any study or model which doesn't mention the implementation and evaluation as an important stage besides decision making and other stages. You can determine the effectiveness of EU environmental policy by its implementation at national, regional and local levels. Today there is still a problem with the implementation of environmental law, what can be illustrated by two phenomena.
Firstly the increasing amounts of infringement procedures which have been started up.
Secondly the raising amount of complaints concerning instances of non-compliance with Community law, which are being investigated by the European Commission.
In the 6th Environmental Action Plan, which I mentioned earlier, the implementation is also stressed as a priority for the future.
The European Parliament called in the light of the 6th EAP for measures to improve respect for EU rules on environment protection, promotion of improved inspection standards, monitoring and enforcement by Member States and a more systematic review of the application of environmental legislation in the Member States.
As a result the European Commission now presents annually reports on the progress in implementation EU environmental law in the EU Member States.
In the last years there is growing importance within the Environment Committee of the implementation issue. Every year the committee draws up three follow-up reports in which it looks at adopted EU environmental legislation, at problems which occur in implementation and at whether the legislation meets its objectives. Furthermore it happens regularly that members table questions on implementation of law in member countries. Besides this, the Environment Committee organizes several implementation sessions during the parliamentary year, a kind of question time for parliamentarians.

Coming to an end, we can draw up some conclusions by summarizing shortly what has been said. Looking at European Environmental Policy we can see that the environmental policy is developing continuously. Existing legislation is to be improved, new legislation is to be created. Especially the new challenges we face, for example in the field of climate change, expose us to the development of new legislation. In environmental policymaking the European Parliament has a major say, by means of the co-decision procedure giving the Parliament a co-legislator status. This means that our work is of major importance and has crucial influence in the policy making process. This also means that we are obliged to do our work seriously and with a high degree of responsibility. A challenge itself. 2009 will be marked by the elections for a new European Parliament and the establishment of a new European Commission. This will delay the policy process this year and has influence on the activities being carried out in the Parliament. Nevertheless we have seen that there still is a lot of work to do in finalizing pending proposals for legislation, such as on ozone, IPPC, eco-labelling and eco-design. Before and after the elections we expect furthermore activities on the NEC directive and in the field of climate policy. With a view to the upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen there is a lot of work to do in order to reach a worldwide agreement on climate change.

The world is developing every day and so the environment does. These developments generate challenges. This obliges us, politicians and policy makers, to keep on working to translate these challenges into actions.

Thank you for your attention!

Hans Blokland,
Maastricht, 29 January 2009

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