35th EPA Network plenary, hosted by German Environment Agency

This plenary meeting was organised online due to travel restrictions in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The European Network of the Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA Network) held its 35th plenary meeting on 8-9 February 2021 hosted by the German Environment Agency.

Welcoming speakers and participants to the online EPA Network plenary, President of the German Environment Agency, Professor Dirk Messner encouraged the European Heads of EPAs to bring their minds together to discuss and learn from each other on environmental issues at the top of the current political agenda. Moderator Peter Woodward introduced the 50 participants from around 30 European countries to each other in groups before participants joined again for an interactive performance from Jannik Görtz to kick off the meeting

To start the meeting, Dirk Messner presented an invitation to the Heads of EPAs to meet with First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans’ Cabinet. Meeting participants exchanged views on the meeting, where a small group of Heads of EPAs will meet representatives of Timmerman’s Cabinet to bring the knowledge of EPAs on implementing the European Green Deal in the context of the Green Recovery.

For the next session Heads of EPAs were invited to briefly flag news, activities, or request to increase the value of the network and exchange experiences on issues on common interest.

For the next session on the 8th Environmental Action Programme and a new monitoring framework, Astrid Schomaker, Director for Global Sustainable Development in DG Environment in the European Commission, presented the Monitoring programme of the 8th Environment Action Program (8th EAP). The 8th EAP will support the EGD with its 2050 vision to “Live well within the planetary boundaries” and the concept of a regenerative economy. Aphrodite Mourelatou, Expert in Strategic Environmental Policies Analysis at the European Environment Agency (EEA), presented recent activities on indicators and reflections from the EEA to EPAs on how to best prepare for the new monitoring framework.

In the session on the Zero Pollution Ambition, Veronica Manfredi, Director for Quality of Life, in DG Environment in the European Commission, presented systemic changes and interlinked solutions as the underlying driver of the European Commission’s Zero Pollution Ambition. Martin Adams, Head of Health and Sustainable Resource Use at the EEA presented developments in Industrial pollution in light of the Zero Pollution Ambition before Heads of EPAs discussed their role in the initiative.

In the next session on Network activities and emerging issues (Topic tasters), Heads of EPAs received short presentations on the four following topics: Opinion paper on gene drive organisms (Bettina Hitzfeld, FOEN), Citizen Science and Zero Pollution (José Miguel Rubio Iglesias, EEA), Using digital tools to stimulate climate work in municipalities (Espen Larsen, Norwegian Environment Agency) and a proposal for action on environment and tourism (Luca Demicheli, ISPRA).

David Jensen, Coordinator of the UNEP Digital Transformation Task Force at UN Environment Programme gave a presentation on the “Collision of two megatrends” digitalization and sustainability transitions in the last session of the meeting. Dirk Messner presented views on how digitalization and sustainability transition is highly relevant for EPAs core activities. Stefan Jensen, Expert on Environmental Information Management at the EEA, presented the development of digital tools at the EEA and how they can act as enablers of the European Green Deal. Heads of EPAs discussed how they can play a role in combining digitalization and sustainability thinking.

Before closing the meeting, Mari Erlandsen, the EPA Network Secretariat, summarised the meeting. Miroslav Havranek presented plans for the upcoming 36th EPA Network plenary to be hosted by CENIA, Czech Republic in autumn 2021. Arnaud Leroy announced plans for ADEME and France to host the EPA Network plenary in Spring 2022.