The European environment – state and outlook 2010
Dear Chairman, Members of Parliament, colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure to be here at the launch of this comprehensive and impressive report of the European Environment Agency.
The launch comes at a crucial moment for the Belgian Presidency of the European Union, namely between the successful outcome of the meeting of the Conference of the Parties of Biodiversity in Nagoya and the COP 16 on Climate Change in Cancún.
First of all Biodiversity. 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, has been a political momentum to tackle biodiversity loss. During the 10th COP to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Nagoya last October, the EU played an significant role. This led successfully to a new ambitious yet realistic strategic plan for the period 2011-2020, to the further development of the Strategy for Resource Mobilisation and to a new Nagoya protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.
To ensure real progress of the CBD implementation at EU level, we will prepare conclusions for the Council in December. These will aim at reflecting the Nagoya outcome in the new EU-Strategic Plan and at starting the ratification process of the ABS Protocol.
Secondly, Climate Change: the follow-up of the Copenhagen Accord and the preparation of the 16th COP to the Convention on Climate Change, which started yesterday, has taken our full attention. In Cancún, we expect all parties of the UNFCCC to take a significant step towards establishing a comprehensive and legally binding framework for climate action at global level.
We will work on a agreement on a balanced set of decisions. This would pave the way for reaching a legally binding global framework as soon as possible and also lead to immediate climate action on the ground. The EU, the world's leading aid donor, will give a full and transparent report on its delivery of 2.2 billion 'fast start' funding to support developing countries. Global action is becoming ever more urgent if we are to have a chance of holding global warming below 2°C and preventing the worst impacts of climate change.
Apart from climate change and biodiversity, I am pleased that the EEA report also highlights other environmental challenges.
The EU’s overall current pattern of production and consumption endangers the availability of resources and has a negative impact on the quality of air, water and soil, on human health, on the climate and on biodiversity, both within and outside the Europe. These economic and environmental challenges are also an opportunity to shift towards a resource-efficient economy that will boost EU competitiveness create new business opportunities, drive innovation and provide a crucial contribution to green and sustainable employment.
At the Informal Council of Environment in July in Ghent, we examined how the transition to an economy which makes efficient use of resources can be ensured by a sustainable management of materials in each phase of the lifecycle of materials, products and waste. At the December Council we will present Conclusions that will give direction to the EU Strategy on Resource Efficiency which is expected next year.
More specifically, we will look into ways of guiding Europe towards a sustainable life-cycle approach, of establishing a coherent mix of measures to make European materials use more sustainable and the development of systemic innovation and better data and indicators.
This brings me to the fourth point of the Belgian Presidency - better instruments for environmental policy. In the December Council we will pay attention to the improvement of the coherence in and integration of environmental policy in other policy areas and the implementation of environmental legislation. An important strand of these conclusions will also be dedicated to the improvement of the system of environmental information. 3 aspects are of importance to us: the further development of indicators that go beyond Gross Domestic Product, the implementation of a Shared Environmental Information System and an evaluation of the Environmental Impact Assessment.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In a modern and democratic society we need good governance and transparency. This includes the creation of a scientifically sound knowledge base, in casu on the environment.
Therefore, back-to-back with this launch, a Conference on ‘Sharing Environmental information’ takes place, organized jointly with the EEA.
This conference is an important milestone in supporting future state of the environment reporting that will lead to the elaboration of a comprehensive Implementation Plan for a ‘Shared Environmental Information System’ (SEIS).
In this respect, I would like to emphasise further:
• that environmental information should get its rightful place in modern information society;
• that balanced sustainable development policies are only possible if quality assured environmental information is readily available and accessible;
• that integrated information systems and streamlined reporting obligations are required to improve this qualitative information in support of environmental policy making and the creation of awareness and acknowledgement by citizens;
• that environmental information should be available at the relevant policy levels: global, European, national but also regional and local.
Tomorrow, at the SEIS-Conference, the role regional and local authorities can play, will be highlighted and our own ‘Flemish Environmental Indicator report 2010’ (MIRA) will be presented and launched.
As Minister of a region I can only insist that also regional and local authorities should be seen and accepted as key players and custodians of environmental information. This information should be available at the same level as where the environmental competences are situated.
Regional environmental information is a key instrument for better fine-tuning of environmental policies, and guarantees a well-fitted integration into other sectoral policies, like agricultural policy.
As a conclusion, I think that this report, presented today by the European Environment Agency, fulfils already in a significant way the considerations concerning environmental information and the environmental priorities of the Belgian Presidency in general.
Furthermore the report was produced through an intensive interaction with the environmental networks in the Member states (the EIONET), which demonstrates again how European collaboration can lead to an outcome that hopefully will support better environmental policies for the benefit of all of us.