All You Need to Know About European Union
Environmental policy has a shorter history in the EU than cooperation on business and industry. But despite a late start, it has been a success. Every decision on tightening leads to improvements in so many countries that the overall effect is great.
Through the Amsterdam Treaty of 1999, the principle of sustainable development became a fundamental goal of the EU. This means that in all decisions made at EU level, environmental considerations must be taken into account and any environmental impact examined.
Two principles in the environmental field must be guiding. One is the precautionary principle, which states that if a product is not proven harmless, it should not be approved. The other is called “the polluter pays” and means that the company, industry or industry that causes environmental damage must bear the costs.
Short for European Union by abbreviationfinder, the EU sets multi-annual environmental programs. The current program runs until 2020 and has three main objectives: protecting and conserving the EU’s natural resources, making the EU a resource-efficient, green and competitive ‘low-carbon economy’, and protecting EU citizens from environmental and health hazards. One of the larger projects is to make the economy “circular”, which means to take in environmental effects already when designing a product or service, in the form of environmentally friendly materials, packaging requirements, final recycling, etc.
The EU’s success in environmental policy includes the regulation of chemicals, which forced a review of all chemicals on the market. The most dangerous ones were banned immediately, in any case there is a less dangerous alternative, the more dangerous versions are banned and all other chemicals must be registered so that the use can be documented.
The department’s mixed success includes the protection of biodiversity. About 20% of the EU’s area has been set aside as natural areas where flora and fauna are to be protected. Despite this, work is too slow to save many plant and animal species from extinction.
The failures of environmental policy must include the fact that emissions from the transport sector have not been able to be reduced despite EU legislation, but on the contrary have increased since 1990. This applies to both road transport and aviation.
The EU has also regulated water and air quality, adopted a strategy for waste management and is working against disturbing noise.
In 2006, the EU adopted the world’s toughest package of measures to reduce climate change. In 2016, the EU had already exceeded the first of its four climate targets for 2020 – to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent compared to 1990 (the reduction was then 23 percent). The target has now been raised to a 40 percent reduction by 2030.
The second goal also seems to be realized; that 20% of the energy consumed in the EU should be generated from renewable energy sources. The EU used 17 percent renewable energy in 2017. The new goal will be to reach 27 percent by 2030.
The third goal – to get the vehicle fleet to run on 10 percent renewable fuels – is possibly within reach thanks to the popularity of electric cars (7.1 percent in 2016).
The fourth goal is also considered to be entirely possible; to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent compared to 2005. In 2016, EU countries had saved more energy than the set target (2 percent over), but a couple of cold winters lowered that result somewhat.
The target for 2030 will be 30 percent.
Within the UN circle, the EU has had mixed success in getting the rest of the world to agree on a global climate agreement. The agreement in Paris in 2015 won many supporters, including the largest emitting countries, the United States and China, but in 2018, US President Donald Trump decided that the United States will not implement its commitment.
However, researchers believe that the Paris Agreement has given too little and come too late to meet the UN’s ambition to keep global warming below 2 degrees. Despite this, the UN Climate Panel said in the autumn of 2018 that the world can still save the situation, but then many, new measures must be taken and it must happen quickly.
Energy is a hot political issue in several ways. It is about securing access to energy in a world where resources are declining and demand is increasing. It is also about the climate because oil, coal and natural gas are responsible for the largest emissions of greenhouse gases. Finally, security policy is affected because EU countries have to import 54 percent of their energy, mainly from Russia and the Middle East.
The EU has long sought to create a common energy market. Gradual deregulation in the mid-2000’s, for example, forced dominant energy companies to open up their networks to competitors and gave customers the right to buy energy from non-domestic producers.
It was not enough to create a cohesive market. In Denmark, for example, people are still forced to close their wind turbines during particularly windy days. The surplus electricity should be able to be sold to northern Germany, where coal-fired power plants are operating at full capacity, but there is a lack of lines between the countries.
The EU has therefore directed regional aid and special energy allocations to infrastructure projects that connect the countries’ energy connections. New lines now link, for example, Sweden, the Baltics, Poland and Germany, while others connect Spain and France.
With the Treaty of Lisbon, energy policy became more of a common concern for EU countries. With the support of this, EU leaders gathered in 2015 for a decision on a European Energy Union. More energy networks are being expanded across borders, new technology enables smarter energy use and competition between energy companies has intensified through clearer pricing. In addition, the member states have committed themselves to help a country in solidarity in the event of an acute energy crisis.
However, energy remains a shared competence between the EU and the member states. The states retain control over important parts of energy policy such as energy taxes, the right to decide which energy sources they want (nuclear power is rejected in some countries and appreciated in others) as well as the right to conclude their own energy agreements with third countries.
The European Commission has tried to have the last word on energy agreements with third countries, in order to be able to slow down agreements that increase the EU’s dependence on imports. But EU countries have only agreed to inform Brussels in advance.