Room for improvement in environmental policy integration
The past decades saw important strategic developments to promote the integration of environmental concerns into other policies in order to support sustainable development. There is however much scope to reinforce implementation and to improve evaluation and policy learning. This according to a new technical report - Environmental policy integration in Europe: state of play and an evaluation framework - released by the EEA.
The integration of environmental concerns in sector and other policy areas emerged as a key element of EU environmental policy as early as 1973. Environmental policy integration has since been elevated to the Community Treaty. It is reflected in the Göteborg EU sustainable development strategy and the 6th environmental action programme.
In its latest report, the EEA reflects on passed efforts at the national and EU levels, to promote environmental policy integration in order to help achieve sustainable development in Europe. The report, developed with support from the Institute for European Environmental Policy, takes stock of recent developments and outlines some of the opportunities and challenges lying ahead.
In terms of policy, the EEA report points to a growing range of instruments being employed at EU and country level. Apart from environmental standards, funding programmes, spatial planning and research programmes, there is also a gradual move towards environmental taxes, environmental tax reform and other market-based approaches that seek to 'get the prices right'. Various forms of impact assessments have also been established, which are opening up and informing decision-making processes.
However, much remains to be done. Improving coordination within and between different levels of governance warrants further attention, including ensuring there is sufficient capacity dedicated to environmental mainstreaming efforts. There is much scope to use regular government planning, budgeting and auditing exercises to push forward environmental and sustainable development objectives, be it at EU or national level. In the area of budgeting, good practice cases are emerging in Norwegian, Dutch and UK policy. Harnessing the EU's funding instruments has been particularly important, with funds increasingly diverted to environmental objectives, and subjected to environmental criteria, including cross-compliance mechanisms. How to monitor and learn from experience, particularly in terms of budgeting, remains a key question however.
A particular gap from the EEA's perspective is the lack of a consistent evaluation and information framework. Although the EU's annual Spring Summits were to review progress, in practice environmental issues have been treated as secondary to the core issues of growth and competitiveness.
To fill this monitoring gap, the EEA proposes a new common evaluation framework for environmental integration. The framework singles out six ingredients for success: political commitment, vision and leadership; administrative culture and practices; assessments and information for decision-making; policy instruments; monitoring progress; and the environmental context of EPI. With this framework the EEA aims to facilitate future evaluation efforts at national or at EU level.
Read the full report here:
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Agriculture and the environment in the EU accession countries - Implications of applying the EU common agricultural policy
High nature value farmland - Characteristics, trends and policy challenges
Energy subsidies in the European Union: A brief overview
EEA Signals 2004
Europe's environment: The third assessment