31st EPA Network plenary, Edinburgh

Photo: Courtesy of SEPAThe European Network of the Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA Network) held its 31st plenary meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 20-21 September 2018.

The meeting was hosted by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). About 60 participants representing around 30 environmental organizations from across Europe and representatives from the European Commission and IMPEL took part in the meeting.

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency opened the meeting. The first session started with the European environmental policy update given by Thomas Verheye from the European Commission’s (EC) Directorate-General for Environment. As the current Parliamentary cycle and EC mandate is ending in 2019, the Commission explained it is now focusing mostly on implementing current legislation and finalizing already tabled legislative proposals. The evaluation of the 7th Environmental Action Programme, the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the Future of Europe debates are issues of emphasis beyond 2019. The European Commission’s proposal for the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-2027 was also presented and discussed.

Terry A’Hearn presented the “One Planet Prosperity” regulatory strategy of SEPA. Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham gave a speech about the environmental achievements and challenges of Scotland; i.e. no new nuclear power stations, a vision to transform energy systems, targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being one of one of the first nations to sign up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This was presented against the backdrop of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, which is opposed by the Scottish Government as the Minister stressed. Finally, she underlined the importance of Scotland continuing to participate in European initiatives such as the EPA Network.

Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency (EEA), updated the plenary on the reorganisation of the EEA highlighting that the reorganisation was put in place to enhance the Agency’s responsiveness to policy and knowledge developments. He set out some cross-cutting priority work (e.g. environment and health, geospatial services, land use change etc.) addressed by the reorganisation.

Jock Martin, Head of Integrated Environmental Assessments at the EEA, opened the second session on Foresight and Horizon Scanning with a presentation to conceptualize the method of foresight and its relevance for EU policies. Dave Gorman, Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh, presented some of the difficulties in making assumptions about the future, emphasising how future technologies can help meet disruptions, to be viewed as opportunities and not only threats.

Terry A’Hearn from SEPA, Miroslav Havranek from Czech Environmental Information Agency, CENIA and Doug Wilson of EPA England presented their experiences in using foresight to trigger innovation and adaptation to change. Discussion took place in the plenary, highlighting the experiences of EPAs and the role of foresight as a “conversation starter” with policy makers. EPAs concluded that they should continue to pool the knowledge of the network when engaging in future foresight activities.

Stefano Laporta, President of the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) addressed the Plenary suggesting that more attention is given by EPAs to the Copernicus Programme.

Photo: Courtesy of SEPA