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Policy context

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Land-use planning and management are essential to better reconcile land use with environmental concerns. It is a challenge that involves various policy levels and different sectors. Monitoring and mediating the negative environmental consequences of land use while sustaining the production of essential resources is a major priority of policy-makers around the world.

In 1999, the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) resulted in European policy orientations for territorial balance and cohesion, improved competitiveness, access to markets and knowledge, as well as wiser management of natural and cultural resources. More recently, integrated spatial development has been addressed by the Territorial Agenda of the EU that aims at mobilising the potential of European regions and cities for sustainable economic growth and more jobs.

Land-use planning and management decisions are usually made at local or regional level. However, the European Commission has a role to play in ensuring Member States take environmental concerns into account in their land-use development plans. The goals are:

 

European economies depend on natural resources, including raw materials and space (land resources). The EU thematic strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources includes space as a resource. It applies to areas of land and maritime space that are needed for production purposes (e.g. minerals, timber, food) and for various socio-economic activities. These interests are often competing for the same territorial resource.

Efforts to modify land-use practices to reduce non-point pollution of air and water include integrated river basin management and, in particular, the Nitrates Directive. Flooding caused by the construction of impervious surfaces (e.g. buildings and roads) and provoked by extreme weather events is addressed by a new European Floods Directive. The cross-cutting nature of land use is also emphasised by the EU rural development and regional policies.

The UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol promotes among others practices that reduce emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from agricultural land. EU policies on climate change adaptation are directly relevant to current and future land-use practices and economic sectors depending on this.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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