Exploring key priorities and actions for the 7th EAP

The European Commission is in the final phase of preparing the next framework for EU environmental policy – the 7th Environment Action Programme (7EAP). A proposal is expected to be presented in November 2012. The 7EAP comes at an important point in time. The economic and financial crisis has led to concerns about competitiveness impacts of major new policy initiatives and there is currently little appetite for action among many Member States. This is a worrying development at a time when ambitious policy action is needed.

The 7EAP offers a rare opportunity for the Council and Parliament to discuss the broader policy orientation of the EU, to take a step back and assess policy needs and inter-linkages between different policy areas within the environment sphere and beyond. While the 7EAP will need to affirm existing strategy processes, it also needs to build new mechanisms and impetus and provide orientation beyond 2020.

This policy paper examines thematic priorities that could be addressed by a 7EAP in the areas of resource use and the natural environment. It focuses on these two areas as they remain conceptually less-developed even though excessive natural resource use underpins many environmental challenges faced today and natural resource provision is in turn dependent on functioning natural systems. The paper also discusses cross-cutting actions relating to implementation, environmental fiscal reform, information and assessment systems, which are needed to support the priorities of the 7EAP and more broadly ensure better delivery of EU environment policy.

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