13th EPA Network plenary meeting, Dublin

The Network of Heads of Environment Protection Agencies held its 13th plenary meeting in Dublin, Ireland, on 17 - 18 September 2009.

The 46 participants represented 28 agencies and came from 24 European countries as well as from the European Environment Agency. DG Environment from the European Commission regularly attends the plenary meetings on invitation.

The meeting was hosted by the Irish EPA, who gave the plenary an overview of the work of the organisation and the state of the environment in Ireland, Mary Kelly, Director of the EPA, presented an overview of environmental governance in Ireland and the environmental challenges facing the country.

EEA and DG Environment from the European Commission informed the members about the most recent political developments in Europe in relation to the work of EPAs.

England and Wales presented the outcome of the Better regulation interest group and the conclusions of the work on the Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP). It was pointed out that at present there is no decision on 7th EAP and that the Commission will launch a major assessment of the 6th EAP.  Members reiterated the conclusion of the 12th plenary meeting about the importance to establish a 7th EAP to support coherent action in the field of environment and it was decided to inform the Commission about the views expressed by the members on the 7th EAP.

Netherlands presented their work on scenario planning, including a study, and will publish "Getting in the right lane for 2050" this autumn. The presentation was supplemented by Belgium/Flanders, Czech Republic, Germany and EEA. At the next plenary meeting (Bilbao, March2010) Scenario Planning in relation to Climate Change will be discussed.

EEA introduced approaches to the "green new deal" and after constructive discussion among members it was decided to continue further discussion at the next plenary meeting based on further evidence and success stories.

FOEN, Switzerland informed the meeting about activities of the Joint ENCA/ EPA interest group on GMOs. The focus of the work at present is on responses to the update of the EFSA- GMO Panel Environment Risk Assessments Guidance document and on monitoring of GMO.

The informal interest group on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), led by SEPA Scotland, informed the meeting about its activities and the "upgrading" of its work to full interest group status. There is a first formal meeting of the group planned on 14 October in Edinburgh with the aim to review progress and developments to date and decide on next steps in understanding the technical issues from evidence gathered across the various countries and companies involved.  The group will then use this to help shape advice on the regulatory framework.

The Interest group on Climate Change and Adaptation led by PBL, Netherlands informed the meeting of its findings and activities. The IG is continuously growing which reflects the increasing interest of the international community pays to climate change adaptation. The IG has recently been concentrating on three fields in its work:  it has continued its effort to exchange information between countries, it has continued its exchange with and support of the European commission in the field of climate change adaptation (e.g. through sending a response to the EU white paper and expressing its interest in contributing to the EU future discussions), and  it has been looking at issues of both scientific and policy interest, i.e. cost benefits analysis, and new methodologies for monitoring and indicators.

The interest group on Better Regulation, led by EA, England and Wales, has in addition to the work on 7EAP presented above, sent a set of questions to members regarding legislation to map out synergies and differences  in regulating organisations .

The interest group on Biodiversity, led by EA, England and Wales, was tasked to work jointly with ENCA and will have a joint meeting with ENCA in parallel with the EEA/EIONET workshop on biodiversity in September. The present focus is how to transform data into information, which can be used by authorities in e.g. licensing environmental permits.

The Interest Group on Natural Resources, led by UBA, Germany, presented its paper on Material Flow Analysis,  which has been published as an informative reference document  on the topic at EPA website. The next task is to contribute to the discussion within Europe on the update of the "Thematic Strategy on Sustainable Use of Natural Resources" in 2010.

The interest group on Contaminated Sites and Soil Protection, led by ISPRA, Italy, reported on the lack of progress of the Soil Framework Directive which also hampered the work of the IG. The last Seventh Framework Programme for Research ( FP7) call on the environment includes an action line  on topics similar to those of the IG,  and several partners are considering the possibility of preparing a proposal. ISPRA will report to the Bilbao meeting on such process and on the opportunity for any further IG activities.

The interest group on Quality Management, under the leadership of the ARSO Slovenia EPA, sent out a questionnaire to the network regarding indicators of processes within EPAs. The group will analyse the results and look at methodologies with the aim to create benchmarking for the agencies.

The interest group on International Cooperation, led by SFT Norway, presented some challenges that the group has come across while discussing international cooperation of the EPAs. EEA gave an overview of its work by emphasising the various scopes of its international activities (geographical, institutional and project oriented).

Ireland, introduced the agenda item on communication and awareness raising looking both at challenges EPAs face in their work and concerns of the wider public. Thereafter Austria informed about their citizen engagement initiative and EEA on international events leading to COP-15. In summing up, the importance of the need to inform and engage public was stressed. EPAs have the message but need to find the right messengers for each audience. It will enhance the success in communication if EPAs share information on best practices through the network

The EPA network reviewed the work of the secretariat at the Dublin meeting and will review the guidelines in the 14th plenary meeting.

The next plenary meeting will take place in Bilbao, Spain, on 15-16 March 2010.