Over the past decades the European Union has put in place a broad range of environmental legislation. As a result, air, water and soil pollution has been significantly reduced. Chemicals legislation has been modernised and the use of many toxic or hazardous substances has been restricted. Today, EU citizens enjoy some of the best water quality in the world and over 18 percent of EU territory has been designated as natural protected areas.
However, many challenges persist and these must be tackled in a structured way.
The Seventh Environment Action Programme (EAP) will guide European environment policy until 2020. In order to give more long-term direction it sets out a vision beyond that, of where it wants the EU to be by 2050:
"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."
It identifies three key objectives:
Four so-called enablers will help Europe deliver on these goals:
Two additional horizontal priority objectives complete the programme:
The programme entered into force in January 2014. It is now up to EU institutions and member states to ensure it is implemented and that the priority objectives are met by 2020.