EU environment policy at 40

12th October 2012

Related Topics

Related tags

  • EU ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Central government



Camilla Adelle and Andy Jordan from the University of East Anglia, reflect on 40 years of environment policy in the EU and the challenges ahead

On 21 October, EU environment policy officially turns 40. Since the EU first endorsed its role in this area at the 1972 Paris Summit, environmental policy has become one of its top objectives. Not only is it now enshrined in the founding treaties, but it is also supported by a powerful network of environmental committees, ministries and agencies, as well as pressure groups and political parties.

Given the unfavourable starting conditions in 1972, this is no mean achievement. In many areas, the question is no longer whether the EU should act, but how it should act. To get to this point, EU environment policy has had to address many significant challenges, but what challenges will dominate in the future?

First, the EU’s choice of implementing instruments is still restricted. Despite much talk about the merits of new instruments, such as eco-taxes or emissions trading, European policy is still mainly pursued via regulatory means. The challenge is finding a better mix among a wider range of instruments.

Second, creating environment policy is one thing, but implementation and evaluation is also important. More accurate information is needed to determine when and why policies work or not. At the same time, the EU needs to redouble its efforts to ensure ambitious policies are fully implemented.

The third, and most immediate challenge, is to secure these additional efforts in an era of acute economic austerity. Austerity will, however, also generate opportunities for those willing and able to show their activities have an economic value. Pro-environment businesses and policymakers are learning a new language to seize these opportunities.

At 40, it seems as though EU environment policy has reached a more mature form. Environment protection will always remain a live political issue, not least because of the long-standing tensions between limiting environmental damage and the pursuit of economic growth. There is an equilibrium, but of a dynamic kind.

One thing is clear: what emerges in the future will have wide-ranging and long-lasting impacts on those who live in, and well outside, the UK.

Camilla Adelle is a senior research associate and Andy Jordan is a professor of environmental politics at the University of East Anglia and are the authors of Environmental policy in the EU, now in its third edition


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

EU and UK citizens fear net-zero delivery deficit

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

Taxing the extraction of fossil fuels in the world’s most advanced economies could raise $720bn (£575bn) by 2030 to support vulnerable countries facing climate damages, analysis has found.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close