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What is the 8th Environment Action Programme?

 Background briefing ahead of plenary vote 07/08 July 2021

I am the rapporteur (European Parliament’s lead negotiator) on the General Union Environment Action Programme to 2030, also known as the 8th Environment Action Programme (8th EAP). 

General Union Environment Action Programmes (EAPs) are legally-binding, multi-annual framework programmes laying down the EU’s priority objectives on environmental policy. The 7th EAP expired at the end of 2020. The 8th EAP will last until 2030. 

All MEPs will vote to adopt the European Parliament’s position on this legislation in the next plenary session on 07-08 July 2021. 

The basis for the vote is my report that was adopted by a strong majority in the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). MEPs have the possibility to amend this report by requesting deletions or additions. These amendments will be voted on 07 July (20:00 CEST), with the vote on the outcome on 08 July. 

As rapporteur, I am advocating that all amendments are rejected to maintain the ambitious text that was adopted in the ENVI Committee. 

You can read the report here (My report is the column on the right, with changes made to the Commission’s proposal indicated in bold italics). 

Structure of the 8th EAP 

The Commission’s proposal for the 8th EAP contained:

  1. One long-term priority objective for 2050: For citizens to live well, within planetary boundaries.

  2. Six priority objectives for 2030:

  3. Climate change mitigation (reducing GHG emissions to reduce climate change).

  4. Climate change adaptation (to help us deal with the inevitable consequences of climate change – it’s too late to stop it fully, so we need to learn to adapt).

  5. Transitioning to a circular economy.

  6. Achieving zero pollution (toxic-free environment).

  7. Protecting and restoring biodiversity.

  8. Reducing the EU’s production and consumption footprint.  

  9. A list of enabling conditions required to achieve the objectives. In the Parliament’s ENVI position, this has been strengthened by the addition of a list of concrete actions to be undertaken by the Commission and Member States to achieve those conditions. 

  1. A monitoring framework to ensure systematic, regular monitoring of progress made towards the 8th EAP’s objectives. 

Changes made by the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI):

 1. Strengthened Objectives, including a Sustainable Wellbeing Economy: The report adopted in ENVI amends the objective about the economy (objective 3) to include the aim of the EU advancing towards a sustainable wellbeing economy. This replaces the Commission’s proposal of a “regenerative growth model”. A sustainable wellbeing economy is one in which the wellbeing of people and planet is at the heart of policy decision-making, and where economic progress is measured by looking at more than just GDP growth. To implement this, the report obliges the Commission to develop a comprehensive set of “Beyond GDP” indicators by the end of 2022.

You can read the wording in the report on a sustainable wellbeing in amendments 14, 15, 38, 42, 57 here.

 2. More Enabling Conditions: The report added to the list of conditions needed to reach the                   8th EAP’s conditions. These include:

  1. Legal framework on soil protection: Establishing a Union-wide legal framework for the protection and sustainable use of soil. There are already common EU legal frameworks for air and water quality, but none for soil. This is expected to meet opposition by Member States, though the European Environment Agency identifies a common EU framework as key to tackling soil degradation.

  2. Binding targets for consumption footprint: Union targets for significantly reducing the Union’s material and consumption footprints as well as binding mid-term and long-term targets for the reduction in the use of primary raw materials.

3. New Concrete Actions: The ENVI Committee added a list of concrete, legally-binding     actions for the Commission and Member States to undertake in order to achieve the enabling conditions. These include: 

  1. Member States must phase out environmentally harmful subsidies with a hard deadline of 2025 for fossil fuel subsidies and 2027 for other environmentally harmful subsidies. Despite commitments by the EU and Member States to phase such subsidies out already, this would be the first piece of legislation under the European Green Deal to contain hard deadlines in this regard. Greens/EFA are in favour of a much earlier deadline for finally putting an end to using public money towards harming the environment, but this was the best compromise possible to get majority support in the ENVI Committee. 

You can read the wording in the report on phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies in amendments 59, 60, 91 here.

  1. The European Commission must calculate and take into account the cost of inaction when proposing new policies.

  1. The European Commission must ensure that current and future policies are aligned with the EAP’s priorities. In practice, this means carrying out compatibility check to ensure coherence of EU policy. This is important because we see lots incoherence in EU policy, for example the CAP and EU trade policy contradict the goals of the European Green Deal. 

  1. Systemic change: The report contains the strongest wording to date by the European Parliament recognising the requirement for systemic change in order to reach the goal of living well, within planetary boundaries. It also includes a requirement for the EU to build its knowledge base on planetary boundaries.

  1. New Governance Framework: The ENVI Committee strengthened the monitoring framework by making it a Monitoring and Governance Framework to ensure political ownership of the monitoring framework. In practice, this means the Commission must monitor progress towards the 8th EAP’s objections on an annual basis, and all EU institutions (including Member State’s governments in the Council of the EU) must discuss the findings and identify corrective measures if we are not making enough progress, at the right pace. It is important to ensure that robust monitoring is coupled with political accountability, if we are to achieve the objectives of the 8th Environment Action Programme.

Issues for Plenary Vote: 07 – 08 July

Environmentally harmful subsidies: Other groups (EPP, ECR) have requested to delete the deadlines of 2025 for fossil fuel subsidies and 2027 for other environmentally harmful subsidies during the plenary vote at 19:30 CEST on Wednesday, 07 July. We expect this to be a very tight vote and as Rapporteur, I’m encouraging people to contact their MEPs to ask them to vote in favour of keeping these deadlines. 

Soil protection and biodiversity spending: The EPP Group has requested to delete the condition of a legal EU framework for soil protection and the ring-fencing of 10% of the EU’s budget for biodiversity spending. The vote on soil in particular may be tight.  

Next Steps after Plenary Vote:

Once the Parliament has adopted its position on the 8th EAP, the European Parliament will begin inter-institutional negotiations with the Council of the EU (Member State governments) and the European Commission to come to a final agreement. As Rapporteur, I will be the Parliament’s chief negotiator in these negotiations, which we expect to be wrapped up by the end of 2021, with the 8th EAP coming into force on 01 January 2022. 

Last updates: 02 July, 2021

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