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When European environmental policies were first developed, many policy instruments focused on specific environmental problems. Since no single policy instrument can provide solutions to all problems, the spectrum of policies has broadened gradually to address increasingly complex environmental and health related problems. Today, many environmental policy interventions combine:
- traditional regulatory approaches, sometimes labelled ‘command-and-control measures’ (for example emission standards, bans of toxic substances, and land planning instruments);
- market based instruments (such as environmental taxes and greenhouse gas emission trading);
- awareness raising (including for example energy efficiency labels and communication campaigns).
The latest EU environment action programme, the 7th EAP, provides an integrated framework for these policy interventions. It sets out the long-term ambition of living well, within the limits of our planet.
Evaluating environmental policies for knowing what works, and how it works
We stand roughly halfway between the beginning of European-level environmental policy, which started in the early 1970s and the 2050 objective for achieving sustainability as set out by the 7th EAP. European environmental policy is recognised as one of the strongest in the world. Our environment would look quite different without it, as The European Environment Ageny's (EEA) latest assessment The European environment — state and outlook 2015 shows. Alongside such assessments the questions such as “what works?”, “how does it work?”, “at what cost?” and “what are prerequisites for making it work?” can be asked in view of improving environmental policy, its implementation and design. Policy evaluation helps to answer these questions.
Evaluations typically address different evaluation criteria. These criteria often focus on the relevance of policies, their effectiveness and efficiency, as well as their coherence, but also the added value of policies at European, national or local level. More recently, the relevance of these criteria has been recognised in the framework of EU initiatives for improving regulation, also known as the Better Regulation initiative. A range of evaluation tools and methods are available to evaluate environment policies against these criteria, for example the European Commission’s Evalsed sourcebook.
EEA’s contributions to environmental policy evaluation
The EEA provides environmental information for policy-makers and the public, and contributes to evaluating environmental policy. Initially focusing on the effectiveness of policies (for example, the reporting on environmental measures project), the EEA’s work has evolved to also focus on:
- methodologies for evaluation, in order to further improve how we understand the relationship between policies and changes in the state of Europe’s environment;
- the effect of policies on specific systems, such as mobility, in order to better understand and evaluate the way policies can contribute to transitions towards a more sustainable society in Europe;
- the integration of environmental policies in other policy areas (for example, the common fisheries policy).
EEA publications contributing to environmental policy evaluation are available here.
- Database of evaluations performed by/ for the European Commission
- OECD Glossary of Key Terms in Evaluation and Results Based Management
- Climate-Eval, the Global Environment Facility’s online community of practice in the area of evaluations of climate change and development
- The European Environmental Evaluator’s Network
- First Environment Action Programme
- Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) ‘living well, within the limits of our planet’.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
PDF generated on 07 Feb 2016, 06:50 PM