Good afternoon everyone,
Today the Commission adopted the third cycle of the Environmental Implementation Review. Last time this kind of review was presented in April 2019. So before the European Green Deal.
A lot has changed. We chose a new path of growing our economy, developing our independence from fossil fuels.
This new path is about saving nature, building a better environment for our citizens, their health and future generations.
But it’s not enough to choose the path. We also have to walk on it.
Implementation of what has been decided in Brussels is equally important as the decision itself.
Implementation is the word of today.
Implementation of EU environmental policy and law is essential for a healthy environment, which is necessary for the development of a healthy and viable society, preserving a level playing field for economic operators and a thriving economy in the longer run.
Thus it’s critical to bridge the gap between what is decided at Union level and what is actually implemented on the ground.
At a time when Europe strives to be the first climate-neutral continent, the weakest link impacts the performance of the EU as a whole.
This review provides a fair overview of Member States’ performance in implementing existing, agreed policy objectives and essential obligations set out in EU environmental legislation.
It establishes a diagnosis of what’s working and what still remains to be done.
We have called this review ‘Turning the tide through environmental compliance’ – because that is what we have to do.
This is also what citizens in Europe expect from us.
All over Europe, we have witnessed the devastating droughts and forest fires this summer. Extreme weather events will become more frequent and violent; none of our Member State has been spared.
This calls not only for emergency response, but preparedness and prevention.
To protect our health, our livelihoods, and ensure long-term food security, all EU Member States must fully and properly apply the environmental rules we already have without any further delay.
This is cheaper than no action, as non-compliance costs 55 billion euros per year.
Our review shows challenges across the board.
On circular economy and waste management, there are big differences in circularity rates and resource productivity between Member States. Preventing and properly managing waste also remains a significant challenge.
Respectively, 17 of 27 Member States need to adopt measures to increase the circular material use rate. 20 are yet to adopt the national or regional waste management plans and waste prevention programmes.
Excessive or non-compliant landfilling is still a big issue in the EU – 12 Member States are currently subject to infringement proceedings.
Biodiversity in the EU continues to decline. The great majority of Member States – to be specific, 25 – need to complete the Natura 2000 site designation process, and define the conservation objectives and measures to achieve the favourable conservation status of protected habitats and species. These are key instruments to protect our environment.
Air pollution continues to harm the health of Europeans, as limit values for dangerous substances are still exceeded.
Consequently, the Commission is currently handling infringement procedures against 18 Member States. More efforts are needed in all 27 Member States to reverse or maintain downward emissions trends of air pollutants, and reduce adverse air pollution impacts on health and economy.
Progress towards achieving good status for water bodies is generally slow. Implementing rules for drinking water is still a cause for concern in a few countries. Wastewaters are not properly treated before being released into the environment in 19 Member States, which are also subject to enforcement action by the Commission.
And last but not least, climate adaptation efforts in each country and at EU level need to be urgently intensified.
I do not want you to get the wrong impression: there are also frontrunners and success stories in all areas – from the replacement of polluting heating systems, to efficient use of water, to decarbonization and wetland restauration.
Some of these are done with EU financial and technical support. We have included them in the Communication as a source of inspiration. But, I want that our attention today would be given to the empty part of the glass.
The challenge ahead is huge, but we can still reverse the negative trends. Two main factors would make a big difference.
First, environmental financing. The review estimated that the remaining investment need is up to 110 billion euros per year to support the green transition.
Second, environmental governance. Most Member States should improve the public’s access to national courts to challenge decisions, acts or omissions.
I’d like to directly address the competent authorities in the Member States.
You have the responsibility to protect your citizens and your natural heritage.
Your actions can ensure that we breathe clean air, drink pure water and enjoy rich nature and biodiversity.
I urge you to fully comply with EU environmental laws. And I urge you to direct investments where they are most needed.
The Commission is always here for you. We will continue to provide financial and technical support.
The report itself highlights best practises from Member States. Use this knowledge and learn from each other. Solutions are within reach – where there is a political will, there is definitely a green way.
Before I open the floor to questions, a final word to citizens – the Environment Implementation Review is a useful tool to demand change from your governments. Use these findings. As always I count on your support.