34th EPA Network plenary, online

The European Network of the Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA Network) held its 34th plenary meeting online on 3-4 December 2020 hosted by the European Environment Agency.

Director General Florika Fink HoijerWelcoming speakers and participants to the first ever online EPA Network plenary, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency (EEA) Hans Bruyninckx emphasised how this online EPA Network plenary will be an opportunity for innovation for the network. The meeting has been designed with informal networking in mind and Peter Woodward was moderator. This was the first EPA Network plenary after the corona virus outbreak, as the plenary meeting planned for April 2020 in Berlin had to be postponed.

Around 60 participants from over 30 European countries and environmental organisations took part in the meeting.

Director General Florika Fink HoijerIn her first meeting with the Heads of European Protection Agencies since taking up her role in September 2020 Florika Fink-Hoijer, Director General of the Directorate-General for Environment in the European Commission, gave a presentation on European Union environmental priorities. Fink-Hoijer highlighted the status of the European Green Deal (EGD), the 8th Environmental Action Programme (8EAP) and the Green Recovery. Heads of EPAs discussed several issues, including the shifting roles of EPAs in light of the ambitious EGD and the Green Recovery.

Hans Bruyninckx Executive Director EEAIn his update from the EEA, Hans Bruyninckx presented the EEA/Eionet strategy 2021-2030 adopted by the EEA Management Board in December 2020. Underlining the cross-sectoral policies and interconnected perspective of the EGD, Hans Bruyninckx emphasised the importance of the EPA Network and the European Environment Information and Observation Network (Eionet) in building new partnerships and alliances. Before closing the first day Heads of EPAs shared topics and experiences where they could potentially connect with other EPAs.

On the second day of the meeting Heads of EPAs discussed Green Recovery after the Covid-19 crisis, Hans Bruyninckx, Arnaud Leroy (ADEME, France), Dr Theodoulos Mesimeris and prof. Dr Theodoros Zachariadis (Cyprus), prof. Dirk Messner (German Environment Agency), Hans Mommaas (PBL the Netherlands), Georg Rebernig (Environment Agency Austria) presented short introductions of case studies from their countries. EPA Heads then discussed how they and the network could support future work on Green Recovery.

Jocelyn Blériot, executive officer of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, introduced monitoring circular economy as a prelude to discussions of the Bellagio Declaration among Heads of EPAs. Alessandro Bratti and Luca Demicheli (ISPRA, Italy) then presented the ISPRA/EEA led process of producing the Bellagio declaration and its seven principles. Heads of EPAs then discussed how they could support the Bellagio declaration as a guideline for establishing a uniform approach to monitoring circular economy. The links going from circular economy to climate mitigation and Covid-19 recovery were emphasised.

For the final session of the meeting five Heads of EPAs introduced issues for short discussion in groups and possible follow-up in the future: Miroslav Havranek (CENIA, Czech Republic) on light pollution, Diane Simiu (Ministry of Ecology, France) on the French Citizen's Convention on Climate, Clive Walmsley (Natural Resources Wales) on Nature Based Solutions (NBS), Björn Risinger (Swedish EPA) on working remotely, and Hans Bruyninckx on new ways of managing organisations.

Heads of EPAs then discussed other emerging issues before Dirk Messner (German Environment Agency) presented plans for the next plenary meeting that the German Environment Agency will host online on 8-9 February 2021.