Environmental issues have developed in parallel across the world, albeit to different extents and international, European and national regulations evolve homogeneously according to their own time scales. There are three stages to the evolution of environmental law.
First, the transition of the issue of the environment from being of little or no legal relevance to one of high legal importance. Second, the increase of legal protection of the environment and the affirmation of the topic as an issue of primary interest receiving greater protection than other matters. Third - and this is the stage in which we are currently - is the achievement of full awareness of the non-sectoral character of environmental law, which requires us not only to integrate discussions about the environment with other matters but to transform these discussions. The perspective is shifting from one which looks at the environment only in terms of "sustainable development" to one which considers other types of development based on respecting nature and wildlife including the human species and natural resources in general.
In December 2019, EU leaders approved the goal of achieving an EU zero carbon target by 2050. EU leaders also asked the Council to continue work on the European Green Deal. The leaders recognised the need to put in place a favourable framework in order to ensure a cost-efficient, socially balanced and equitable transition to climate neutrality, taking into account the different national situations.
The Council, in October 2019, approved conclusions that include guidelines for EU policies on the environment and climate change for the period 2021-2030. In its conclusions, the Council invites the Commission to present, by the beginning of 2020 at the latest, an ambitious and targeted proposal relating to the 8th Environment Action Program (EAP).
The conclusions are based on the new EU strategic agenda adopted by the European Council on 20 June 2019, which insists on the urgent need to build a green, fair, social and zero carbon Europe. In its conclusions, the Council stresses that climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss and the ever-increasing demand for natural resources are endangering the well-being and prospects of present and future generations.
It underlines the need to take further measures to protect and restore biodiversity including the adoption of ambitious biodiversity targets in the 8th EAP. It also urges the Commission not to delay in presenting a Union strategy for a non-toxic environment which will be fully focused on endocrine disruptors, the combined effects of chemicals and nanomaterial issues.
The Commission has also been invited to develop a new circular economy action plan and a long-term strategic framework, including a common vision for a circular economy. To date, we can see that the EU's environmental policies and legislation aim to give citizens of the Union a satisfactory quality of life while respecting the ecological limitations of the planet. These are based on an innovative and circular economy, in which biodiversity is protected, enhanced and restored and environmental health risks are minimized, thereby increasing the resilience of our society and separating growth from the use of resources.
That being said, given the epochal health emergency that the Union is facing in regards to COVID-19, we will probably have to wait until the end of the year or the beginning of next year before we know if and how the 8th EAP will include specific actions to address environmental awareness and the education of adult citizens. That is why with this blogpost we want to highlight some good practices that have already helped to achieve the current and prospective priorities of the European Union in relation to the environment!
- #CEstakeholderEU is the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform, a joint initiative by the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee. Here, adult educators can easily search for, and find, practices which can be used as case studies for sensitizing different groups of adults as well as for inspiring those adults who are willing to retrain and become sustainable entrepreneurs.
Protection of the marine and coastal environment
- The YouTube channel of the RECORDI project offers nine beautiful documentaries on many good practices from different EU countries on how to improve the cultural and economic environment in remote coastal areas by bringing together cultural heritage with ecotourism-related entrepreneurship.
- Oslo car free is internationally recognised as one of the most effective initiatives in combining the reduction of CO2 emissions, enhancing the wellbeing of citizens and fostering social inclusion. The initiative starts from the assumption that an active city life cannot be simply adopted, but instead must be created through cooperation between the municipality and residents, businesses and organisations. In the light of this, everyone in Oslo is invited to offer their thoughts and ideas on how to use a car-free public space, in a bid to make it easier not to use cars.
Safety of chemical substances
- The introduction of certain chemical substances to a bee's environment can cause the bee to behave abnormally and unusually and to become disorientated. Since beekeeping is a big market in terms of chemicals and equipment sales, non-profit, research-based information is very limited. With the Live and Let Bee project, several EU organisations have joined forces to design a comprehensive website aimed at all levels of the society which includes a training course on Ecological Beekeeping.
Prevention and reduction of noise pollution
- The impact of noise on how we behave is an important aspect of the so called “acoustic ecology” and to be properly understood it requires greater awareness of “noise pollution”. The Paysage Sonore project aims to contribute to this research field by implementing a series of initiatives on the "Soundscape Attentive Listening".
Reduction of soil erosion, from a quality perspective
- AccessToLand has supported the establishment of a European network of grassroots organisations securing land for agroecological farming. At a time when desertification is advancing in Southern Europe and climate change is affecting even Northern European countries, the online portal of these relevant network represents a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in organic and sustainable farming.
Sustainable management of the urban environment
- Financed by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, the Shared Cities: Creative Momentum project has involved public authorities, higher education institutions, cultural organisations, professionals and active citizens in exploring new and better ways of living in cities. A creative-based intervention that has defined new ways of urban planning and policy-making and showed urban citizens that their participation is essential when it comes to creating valuable urban environments.
Waste management and recycling
- FAct! The Food Actions project offers a participatory learning and training package for food-wise households. The self-learning workbook proposes easy action steps. It contains action recipes, food recipes, and supporting material for each of the following three topics Food & Waste, Food, Climate & Environment and Food & Health. You can track your progress using the “before-and-after surveys”. The online library contains more information if you want to do your own research.
Protection of water resources
- In addition to cooperation projects and initiatives promoted by public authorities, another good way to engage people to protect the environment is by supporting thematic world days! The World Water Day was launched for the first time in 1993 by the UN’s Intersecretariat Group for Water Resources and is now the main initiative in the world when it comes to advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.