14th EPA Network plenary meeting, Bilbao

The Network of Heads of Environment Protection Agencies held its 14th plenary meeting in Bilbao, Spain, on 15 - 16 March 2010.

The 50 participants represented 25 agencies and came from 22 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 opened by the hosts, Mr. Fernando Barrenechea, Director of IHOBE the EPA of the Basque Country Regional Government and Mrs. María Jesús Rodríguez de Sancho, Director General de Calidad y Evaluación Ambiental, Ministerio Medio Ambiente, Medio Rural y Marino, Spain who welcomed the guests. Thereafter, Spain presented an overview of Spain’s environmental governance and the environmental challenges facing the country followed by a presentation and projection of the video “The environment in Spain: The administrative, economic and environmental background” done for SOER 2010.

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. It was followed by a presentation by Spain, on the outcome of COP15 and the way forward to CoP16.

In the section on Greening  the economy and the 7th EAP, Spain gave comprehensive overview of the issue and how it is responding to the crisis it is facing. Among the measures taken are the sustainable economy bill and environmental conservation measures. The presentation was followed by substantive discussion on the role of EPAs in greening the economy and the opportunities such an approach offers. Members of the EPA Network agreed to establish an interest group on Greening the Economy. EA England and Wales informed the meeting on the progress regarding correspondence to the Commission recommending establishment of the 7th Environmental Action Programme.

Members participated in a Workshop on scenario building looking at various options on water facilities.

During the session EPA’s at work IHOBE presented the organization and how they have adapted to rapid organizational changes with challenges to management and administration.

EA England and Wales presented the outcome of the Better regulation interest group (BRIG) including the correspondence to the Commission and the conclusions of the work on the Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP).

The Interest Group on Natural Resources, led by UBA, Germany, presented key messages from its paper in progress on the EC Raw Material Initiative. 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 Biodiversity, led by EA, England and Wales, informed the meeting about the joint work with ENCA and the outcome of the joint meeting in parallel with EIONET which had the main focus on risk based screening on environmental permits.  

FOEN, Switzerland informed the meeting about activities of the Joint ENCA/ EPA interest group on GMOs. The focus of the work at present is correspondence with EFSA on the Risk Assessment Guidance Document.

The Interest group on Climate Change and Adaptation led by PBL, Netherlands informed the meeting of its findings and activities. The IG has been very active and the number of members participating in the group is still increasing. Its 10th meeting has been held back to back to a meeting with the Commission. In the latter meeting information has been exchanged about the European policy process in the field of climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, and how the different EPAs can support this process. E.g. information has been exchanged on the Clearing house Climate Change Adaptation, as proposed by the Commission, and the possible EPA role in the new European Working Group Knowledge Base, as proposed in the Commissions White Paper.

The interest group on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), led by SEPA Scotland, informed the plenary about the inaugural meeting of the CCS IG held in Edinburgh last October. The meeting provided a mini conference, with a range of additional invited experts, including experts from the Commission and the Scottish Government. There were a number of presentations from EPAs and the opportunity to discuss key issues raised. The interest in the subject of CCS seems to be quite high within a number of governments.

The interest group on Quality Management, under the leadership of the ARSO Slovenia EPA, is collecting information on indicators of processes within EPAs. The aim is to present the findings in Krakow

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. A project proposal to the last Seventh Framework Program for Research (FP7) in which Italy is a partner and which is covering the objectives of the IG, is currently awaiting evaluation. If the project will be funded, the IG could consider acting as an Advisory Board. In discussion members recognized issues of soil as part of the approach to remediate the effects of Climate Change and change of focus might be considered.

The interest group on International Cooperation, led by the Climate and Pollution Agency (Norway), submitted a written report to the EPA-meeting. There has been limited activity in the group since the previous EPA-meeting. However, the group has plans to increase the communication between the members, and update and simplify the information on the EPA´s individual international activities.

On new and emerging issues the members spoke about how an ambitious 30% GHG reduction target by 2020 would work with the economic incentives of a 'green economy'. An Interest Group on Noise will be discussed in Krakow.

The EPA network revised its internal guidelines.

The next plenary meeting will take place in Krakow, Poland, on 16 - 19 Sept. 2010.