16th EPA Network plenary meeting, Malta

The Network of Heads of Environment Protection Agencies held its 16th plenary meeting in Malta on 28-29 March 2011.

The 56 participants represented 29 national environmental organisations from 25 European countries and the European Environment Agency. We were also pleased to welcome Mr Karl Falkenberg and Liam Cashman from DG Environment.

The meeting was opened by Mr Ian Stafrace, the Chief Executive of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA)

In the first session, Karl Falkenberg gave an overview of the Commission priorities in the field of environment. Members were able to have an informal discussion with the Director General on topics ranging from resource efficiency to water and implementation issues.

The Better Regulation Interest Group had provided a draft response to the Commission consultation on 6EAP and this was agreed and finalised after the meeting.

There was a discussion on the Network contribution to the Green EconomySpain had circulated a paper on a possible approach for the Interest Group. We had a presentation from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) on indicators for a green economy. The Interest Group will meet in Spain in summer to finalise the approach and consider a possible statement.

The EEA provided a summary of results from a preliminary analysis of national resource efficiency policies and instruments across Europe. There was a presentation from the German Federal Environment Agency on material efficiency and resource conservation. The Interest Group proposes to produce a strategic statement this year.

MEPA gave an introduction to the country of Malta and an overview of key environmental issues. These include air quality, land use planning, water (coastal and marine), waste and biodiversity. MEPA is responsible for land use and environment and has 400+ staff split across 4 units.

MEPA also introduced the water survey analysis. The survey on EU water policy focused on national set up, overview of different agencies, positive and negative impacts, implementation costs and looked at possible improvements to future EU water policy. There was a discussion of the results of the report and on water issues of interest to the agencies. It was agreed that the Better Regulation Interest Group would look into these issues in more detail.

The EPA secretary provided an overview of the work of the network and on actions since the last meeting. A survey on the differing roles of the EPAs was also presented.

The European Commission provided a short overview of its better regulation activities, including a proposed Communication on implementation. This will have two main themes 1) Governance structure and 2) Knowledge base.

The Better Regulation Interest Group informed members about the recent meeting in Brussels which also involved the European Commission and other stakeholders. The group will take forward some work relating to the governance aspect of the Commission Communication.

The Interest group on Climate Change and Adaptation held a meeting in Budapest on 17-18 March 2011. The main issues for discussion are mandatory reporting on climate change adaptation, the EC Clearing House and adaptation indicators.

The Interest Group on GMOs is a joint EPA Network/ ENCA group. The group will provide a report on monitoring – to be sent to all members for discussion at the next plenary meeting.

The Interest Group on International cooperation has not been   active recently but it could be timely to simplify and update the survey on international activities as there seems to be increased interest in this information.

On internal matters, Will Fawcett was presented as the new secretary. The meeting considered an evaluation of the roles of the different Interest Groups and also possibilities for future work of the secretariat.

On new and emerging issues the Austrian Environment Agency informed the members about the EUROPE Vision 2050 initiative which is being carried out together with UBA Germany.

The network had also received a letter from the Director of ICPDR (Committee for Protection of the Danube River). This suggests network/ interested members could contribute to the EU  strategy for the Danube region.

The 17th EPA Network plenary will take place in Haarlem, Netherlands on 9-11 October 2011