The Environmental Implementation Review (EIR), a new tool from the European Commission, aims to help EU Member States achieve the benefits of fully applying existing environmental standards in areas such as waste management, nature and biodiversity, air quality, and water quality and management. 

Many EU Member States have made notable progress in applying commonly agreed environmental rules in recent years — rivers and seaside areas are cleaner, air quality has improved and urban waste is better managed. But much more needs to be done to fully implement EU laws that could save the European economy EUR 50 billion every year in health costs and direct costs to the environment, create hundreds of thousands of jobs and raise quality of life for citizens, while protecting nature and biodiversity.

The EIR will help Member States achieve these benefits while implementing EU environmental rules more efficiently. It consists of a two-yearly cycle of analysis, dialogue and collaboration, beginning this year, with the publication of country reports and discussions between the Commission, Member States and other stakeholders.

The initiative, a result of the Commission’s Better Regulation policy, addresses the uneven application of environmental legislation across EU Member States and proposes solutions to problems before they become urgent and lead to infringement actions.

Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Karmenu Vella said: “The European Commission is committed to helping Member States make sure that the quality of their citizens’ air, water and waste management is of the highest standard. This review provides the information, the tools and the timetable to do this.”

The EIR includes 28 country reports detailing national strengths, opportunities and weaknesses that will serve as a starting point for discussions with stakeholders across the public and private sectors to better implement environmental policy. They are published along with a summary that sets out common trends, recommendations and political conclusions.

For example, this year’s EIR found that all Member States face challenges solving waste management  issues, while six have not managed to limit the landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste, even though full compliance with EU waste policy by 2020 could create additional 400 000 jobs.

In water quality and management, most Member States are also struggling to reach full compliance on collection and treatment of urban wastewater and 13 face EU legal action. With regards to air quality, standards are exceeded in 23 out of 28 countries, but air pollution is still linked to more than 500 000 premature deaths across the EU each year.

Poor implementation of environmental law and policies has many negative effects, not least the environmental, economic and social costs. Only through sharing knowledge, enhancing coordination and working together with public administrations, businesses and citizens across Member States can these challenges be effectively addressed.

The Commission’s efforts to strengthen the implementation of environmental legislation respond directly to EU citizens’ concerns. The environment is a worry for more than 95 % of Europeans. Three out of four people find EU legislation necessary for protecting the environment in their country and nearly four out of five agree that the EU institutions should be able to check if environmental legislation is being applied correctly.

Source: Environment for Europeans Magazine