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Official Journal Reference

L242 of 2002-09-10

Legislative Reference

of 2002-07-22
The sixth action programme provides the environmental component of the Community's for sustainable development for 2001-2010. It aims to facilitate the full integration of environmental protection requirements into other Community policies in conjunction with the objectives and policies of sustainable development.


Since 1972 there have been four Community action programmes on the environment. Initially the essential aim of Community environment policy was the control of pollution and of nuisances. Later, awareness concentrated on prevention leading to the integration of environmental requirements into the planning and execution of actions in many economic and social sectors.

The fourth action programme (1987-1992) was based on the recognition that the environmental protection policy can contribute to improved economic growth and job creation and that it should be made an essential component of the economic, industrial, agricultural and social policies implemented at Community and national level.

The fifth action programme (1993-2000), adopted on 1 February 1993 (Official Journal No C 138 of 17.5.1993), had as its basis the principles of sustainable development, preventive and precautionary action and shared responsibility as set out in the Declaration of the Heads of State and Government of the Community, 26 June 1990, and in the new Treaty on European Union, which has as a principle objective the promotion of sustainable growth respecting the environment (Article 2) and specifies that the environment policy must aim at a high level of protection and must be integrated into the definition and implementation of other Community policies.
The Global Assessment of the fifth programme concluded that while progress was being made in cutting pollution levels in some areas, problems remained and the environment would continue to deteriorate unless:
- More progress was made in the implementation of environmental legislation in Member States;
- Integration of the environment into the economic and social policies driving the pressures on the environment was improved and deepened;
- Stakeholders and citizens took more ownership of efforts to protect the environment;
- New impetus to measures aimed at addressing a number of serious and persistent environmental problems as well as a number of emerging concerns.

This context has guided the strategic focus of the sixth environmental action programme, which effectively sets the environmental objectives and priorities that will be an integral part of the European Community's strategy for sustainable development.

It stresses the need for Member States to better implement existing environmental laws, and the Commission announces that it will bring increased pressure to bear on Member States by making implementation failures better known.
The new programme also intends to work with business and consumers to achieve more environmentally friendly forms of production and consumption. Here, the Commission wants to have recourse to a raft of new instruments ranging from an Integrated Product Policy and environmental liability to fiscal measures and better information for citizens. Another aspect that is highlighted, is the need to continue to integrate environmental considerations into other policies such as transport, energy and agriculture and the importance of spatial planning and action at the local and regional level to promote sustainable development.

The environmental action programme in most areas limits itself to setting general objectives rather than quantified targets. For each of the four priority areas (climate change, nature and bio-diversity, the environment and health and sustainable use of natural resources and waste) the programme explains the issues, defines the objectives and lists the priority actions to be undertaken. On several environmental problems, so-called 'thematic strategies' are announced which will combine different measures for achieving environmental objectives in the most cost-effective way.
The new programme will see the Enlargement of the EU and will then apply also to the new Member States. It calls on the Candidate Countries to fully apply the EU's existing environmental legislation and announces a deepening of the dialogue with their administrations, environmental NGOs and business communities. Strengthening the integration of environmental aims into the EU's external policies for example through developing methodologies and criteria for sustainability impact assessments for trade agreements and an effective EU role in international environmental policy-making is another priority area.


The programme will focus on 4 main areas of priority:

Tackling Climate Change

_ In order to meet the targets established by the Kyoto Protocol:
- Ratifying and implementing the Kyoto Protocol;
- Reduce greenhouse emmissions;
- Establish a Community wide emissions trading scheme in CO2;
- Undertake an inventory and review of energy subsidies in Member States;
- Encourage a shift towards low carbon fuels for power generation;
- Encourage renewable energy sources;
- Promote the use of fiscal measures to encourage a switch to cleaner energy and transport;
- Encourage environmental agreement with industry sectors on energy efficiency;
- Identify specific actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation;
- Ensure climate change as a major theme of Community and national research programmes;
- Develop means to assist SMEs to adapt, innovate and improve performance;
- Introduce incentives to increase Combined Heat and Power;
- Promote eco-efficiency practices and techniques in industry;
- Promote energy saving on both the heating and cooling of buildings.

_ Measures prepared to adapt to the consequences of climate change:
- Reviewing Community policies;
- Encouraging regional climate modelling and assessments.

Nature and Bio-diversity

_ On accidents and disasters:
- Promoting Community co-ordination to actions by Member States;
- Developing measures to help prevent the major accident hazards arising from pipelines and mining.

_ A thematic strategy on soil protection.

_ Promoting landscape protection and restoration into other policies.

_ Encouraging further development between agriculture and the environment in the Common Agricultural Policy.

_ Promoting greater integration of environmental considerations in the Common Fisheries Policy.

_ Developing strategies and measures on forests, incorporating the following elements:
- The development of national and regional forestry and sustainable forest management;
- Continuation of the existing Community measures on the protection of forests;
- Encouraging credible forest certification schemes;
- Active participation of the Community in implementing the resolutions of the ministerial conferences on the Protection of Forests in Europe.

_ A thematic strategy for the protection of the marine environment.

_ Reinforcing controls on monitoring, labeling and traceability of Genetic-modified organisms (GMOs).

_ Monitoring the implementation of the Community's bio-diversity strategy and action plans.

Environment and Health

_ Reinforcement of Community research and scientific expertise, and coordination of national research programmes to help achieve in particular:
- Identification and recommendations on the priority areas for research and action;
- Definition and development of indicators of health and environment;
- Examination of the need to update current health standards;
- Review of trends and the provision of an early warning mechanism for new or emerging problems.

_ On chemicals:
- Developing a new single system for the testing, evaluation and risk management of new and existing substances;
- Developing a testing regime depending on properties, uses and volumes of chemicals produced or imported;
- Establishing new specific and accelerated risk management procedures;
- Upgrading of information from industries on the properties of the chemicals they produce and use;
- Upgrading management of chemicals.

_ On pesticides:
- Thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides;
- Ratification of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade;
- Amending Community Regulation (2455/92) concerning the import and export of dangerous chemicals;
- Improving the management of chemicals and pesticides in developing and candidate countries.

_ On the sustainable use and high quality of water:
- Phasing out of the discharge of hazardous substances to water;
- Revising the Bathing Water Directive 8;
- Integration of the Water Framework Directive and water quality objectives into the Common Agricultural Policy and Regional Development Policy.

_ On air pollution:
- Improving the monitoring of air quality;
- Thematic strategy on air pollution;
- Considering indoor air quality and the impacts on health.

_ Sustainable management of natural resources and management of wastes

_ A thematic strategy on the sustainable use of resources, including:
- Consideration of a best practice programme for business;
- Identifying research needs;
- Economic instruments;
- Removal of subsidies which encourage over-use of resources;
- Integration of resource efficiency considerations into an Integrated Product Policy approach.

_ On waste prevention:
- Integrating waste prevention objectives and priorities into an Integrated Product Policy approach.

_ Revising the legislation on sludges 9.

_ Recommendations on construction and demolition waste.

_ Legislating on bio-degradable wastes.

_ A thematic strategy on waste recycling,.

_ Priority areas for action on international issues

- Integration of environment concerns and sustainable development into all the Community's external policies;
- Establishing a coherent set of environment and development targets for adoption at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002;
- Promoting sound environmental practices in foreign direct investment and export credits;
- Intensify efforts at the international level to find commons methods of evaluation of risks to health and the environment;
- Ensuring that sustainability impact assessments of trade agreements are carried out.

_ Environment policy making based on participation and sound knowledge
- Ensure stakeholders are extensively consulted to facilitate the most effective choices and a satisfactory result for the environment;
- Continuing financial support to environmental Non-governemental organizations (NGOs);
- Ensuring that environment remains a major priority;
- Ensuring better co-ordination of environmental research conducted in Member States;
- Ensuring regular information to the public on the environment;
- Reviewing information and reporting systems to introduce a more coherent and effective system;
- Reinforcing the development of geographical information systems and the use of space monitoring applications.


The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the programme. The action programme for 2001-2010 for the EU's environmental policy follows the 5th environmental action programme in 1992 and its review in 1998. The Commission shall evaluate the progress made in implementing the programme in the fourth year of operation. The Commission shall submit this mid-term report together with any proposal for amendment that it may consider appropriate to the European Parliament and the Council. It shall also submit to the European Parliament and the Council a final assessment of the programme and the state and prospects for the environment in the course of the final year of the programme.
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