The Unofficial History of the IEEP
Environmental policy is one of the most important and far-reaching areas of EU legislation. The EU is the leading authority in this area with up to 80% of UK legislation on environmental affairs estimated to come from the EU. However, critics of EU environmental policy question the efficiency of some measures, arguing that the cost of complying with these regulations leaves European business uncompetitive, especially in the face of increased competition from countries such as China and India, which do not have such strict environmental rules.
Environmental policy is a relatively recent European legislative policy area. Environmental protection was not mentioned in the Treaty of Rome (1958), and it was not until 1972 that the first of a series of European Environmental Action Plans (EAP) was launched. The Single European Act (1986) marked the beginning of a more prominent role for environmental protection in EU policy-making, introducing the principal that environmental protection should be considered in all new Community legislation. EU environmental policy was substantially expanded by the Treaties of Maastricht (1992) and Amsterdam (1997), which made sustainable development one of the EU’s central objectives. Research into sustainable development also forms a key part of the Europe 2020 Strategy, which underpins all EU policy regarding the single market. The Lisbon Treaty (2007) reiterated the objective of sustainable development and, in 2010, the EU renewed a number of environmental Directives to ensure they comply with the Lisbon Treaty.
The EU has passed legislation aimed at improving the quality of water, tackling air and noise pollution, assuring the safety of chemicals, setting standards for waste disposal and protecting the EU’s native wildlife and plants. The current EAP, which runs from 2002-2013, identifies four environmental areas for priority action: climate change; nature and biodiversity; environment, health and quality of life, fisheries and aquaculture, natural resources and waste.
The EU has also taken a leading role in global environmental negotiations, especially the signing of the Kyoto Protocol. At the 1997 UN Conference on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, the EU committed its members to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 8% by 2013, compared to levels in 1990. The 2008 EU Climate Change package established the ’20:20:20 targets’ for 20% of energy to come from renewable sources and committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20% by 2020.
EU measures to meet such objectives include the Emissions Trading System, created in 2002. This system limits the amount of carbon dioxide firms can produce in 6 key industries: energy, steel, cement, glass, brick-making, and paper/cardboard production. The 2008 EU Climate Change package added aircraft emissions to the ETS from 2013. The EU also supports reducing CO2 emissions through Carbon Capture and Storage to bury emissions so they don’t enter the atmosphere. Finally, in 2008 the EU reasserted a commitment to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted from new cars and to fine manufacturers for each gram of CO2 they produce over the target. In 2013, the European Court of Justice ruled that EU states can set their own limits on CO2 emissions. However, the Commission said it will appeal against this ruling because it could compromise the ETS. Poland, Estonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania all oppose imposing EU-wide CO2 quotas.