17th EPA Network plenary meeting, Haarlem

The European Network of Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA Network) held its 17th plenary meeting in Haarlem on 9-11 October 2011.

The 51 participants represented 26 environmental organisations from 23 European countries and the European Environment Agency. The Network was also pleased to welcome Mr Karl Falkenberg from DG Environment, John Harman and David Baldock from the Institute of European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and Zofia Tucinska, the Chair of the Network for Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL).

The plenary was held back to back with a meeting of the European Network of Nature Conservation Agencies (ENCA). This provided an opportunity for the two networks to meet and discuss common issues. There was a joint session as part of the programme.

The meeting was opened by Maarten Hajer, the Director of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL)

The EEA highlighted results from an analysis of national resource efficiency policies and instruments across Europe. Also highlighted were the Astana ministerial conference, the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS), Eye on Earth and green economy initiatives.

The plenary was updated on the progress of the EPA Network Interest Groups (IGs). There was a discussion on the Network contribution to the Green Economy. The mandate of the IG is to consider an evidence based approach to the green economy. It was suggested that the IG should increase its focus on case studies regarding market based instruments, green jobs and indicators. It was also suggested that the IG could look at environmentally harmful subsidies.

The plenary approved a letter from the IG on Noise Abatement that will be sent to the European Commission, calling for more demanding legislation on noise from road vehicles. The IG on Sustainable Resources is developing two papers, one on challenges facing resource policies and the other on environmental product information.

The Better Regulation IG has been working on an analysis of governance and implementation in the water sector. Preliminary findings were presented at the meeting and this was seen as a useful piece of work that will be taken further.  

The Network welcomed back a former member, Sir John Harman, in his role as Chair of the Board of IEEP. Together with the Executive Director David Baldock, he updated the Network on relevant policy developments in which the IEEP is involved, for example the Assessment of the 6th Environment Action Programme (EAP) and the water fitness check. 

One session was dedicated to a joint discussion with the ENCA network on implementation of the Water Framework Directive and the Birds and Habitats Directives. Participants had answered a questionnaire in advance of the session and the results were analysed and presented by PBL. The discussion highlighted the need to recognise the benefits of the legislation and the positive trends, and also to note where things are going well and where it is impossible to meet demands. There are benefits for the two networks to work together to explore these issues in more detail and possibilities to do this could be explored further.

The plenary agreed that the Network should make a contribution to the forthcoming air quality policy review and also that the Network could make a useful contribution to the development of a 7EAP.

There was a presentation from the German Federal Environment Agency on future possibilities for 100% renewable electricity supply. The members of the Nework underlined the need for reliable forward looking studies and assessments on topics like energy and resources, preferably with the year 2050 as the timeframe.

The network was introduced to Zofia Tucinska, the new Chair of the IMPEL Network. She highlighted current activities of IMPEL, particularly the forthcoming conference on implementation to be held in Malta in 2012. There is on-going cooperation between the two networks.

The EPA secretary provided an overview of the work of the network and on actions since the last meeting. This included proposals for improving and simplifying the EPA Network website. These will be implemented in the coming weeks.

In the final 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. Mr Falkenberg commented that “The door is open for communication with the Network” on a number of these issues.

The 18th EPA Network plenary meeting will take place in London on 1-3 April 2012.