Brussels, 28 Jan 2005
A communication from the European Commission has called for the 'constantly decreasing relative priority given to environmental and energy research' to be reconsidered.
The 2004 Environmental Policy Review lists environmental highlights from the past year and outlines those areas were further action is needed.
'Environmental policy is increasingly based on better knowledge and science. However, wide gaps in knowledge and uncertainties remain, calling for continued efforts to develop our knowledge base. Significant research and development efforts are need to fill these gaps, both in the Member States and in the EU as a whole,' states the paper.
The communication highlights the contribution that the environment, and in particular eco-innovation, can make to the Lisbon strategy. Opportunities for innovation are inherent in the EU priorities of improving the efficiency of energy and resource usage, and meeting climate change targets.
Eco-efficient innovations can be promoted in all sectors of the economy through the full implementation of the Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP), states the Commission. ETAP is an ambitious plan to further environmental technologies within the EU and globally. It seeks to exploit their potential to improve both the environment and competitiveness, thus contributing to growth and possibly creating jobs. Drawn up by the Commission's Research and Environment DGs, it sets out a number of actions that the Commission will take and some that other stakeholders, such as industry and national and regional governments, should undertake in order for the plan to be successful. The new communication calls on the EU Member States to establish roadmaps for the implementation of ETAP.
'Europe needs to invest more in innovative ways to protect the environment while boosting the EU's competitiveness. Environmental technologies can make a crucial contribution towards achieving this goal, and with it the Lisbon target,' said EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. '[ETAP] has started to move things in the right direction, but we need a renewed and determined effort by the Member States and the EU institutions together if we are to reach decisive results.'
The paper also notes the importance of keeping up with the EU's major competitors in the US and Japan, as well as China. Global demand for eco-innovations is growing with the realisation within countries with rapidly developing economies, such as China, that growth may soon be checked by environmental constraints.
In order to keep pace with competitors, the EU should provide public support for research in this field, as well as for 'risky' demonstration activities, states the communication.
The communication outlines the three broad goals for 2005: stepping up the implemenation of measures in order to meet Kyoto commitments; launching an international discussion on emission reduction measures post 2012; and preparing to adapt to unavoidable climate change.