18th EPA Network plenary meeting, London

The European Network of Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA Network) held its 18th plenary meeting in London on 2-3 April 2012.

Around 60 participants representing 28 environmental organisations from across Europe took part in the meeting. The Network was also pleased to welcome Mr Peter Gammeltoft from DG Environment.

The meeting was opened by Lord Chris Smith, The Chairman of the Environment Agency in England and Wales. The Minister for Natural environment and fisheries, Richard Benyon welcomed participants and highlighted a number of important challenges, for example adapting to climate change. He said “the Network has a valuable role to play in sharing information and helping to achieve a level playing  field across Europe”. Paul Leinster, the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency in England and Wales provided an overview of environmental governance in England and Wales and the role of the Environment Agency.

The EPA secretary provided an overview of the work of the network and actions since the last meeting. This included simplifying the EPA Network website and improving communications within the Network. 

The plenary was updated on the progress of the EPA Network Interest Groups (IGs). The plenary approved a letter from the IG on Noise Abatement that will be sent to the European Parliament , calling for more demanding legislation on noise from road vehicles. This will be accompanied by a technical report on noise abatement measures.

The IG Climate Change Adaptation presented a couple of proposals for future work including preparing for a session on the proposed EU Adaptation Strategy and also monitoring and reporting requirements in relation to GHG emissions. These proposals will be developed further in the coming months.

The IG on International Cooperation will meet in May and the IG on Green Economy will look to focus activities further after the meeting. The IG on Sustainable Resources has developed a paper on challenges facing resource policies which was noted by the plenary. The remaining interest group progress reports were noted.

There was a session on water regulation where the plenary split into three smaller discussion groups focusing on streamlining of monitoring and reporting requirements, input to the EC Blueprint for water and tackling diffuse pollution. Peter Gammeltoft was on hand to update the group on the Blueprint process and also to discuss some of the findings from these discussions.

There was a substantial session on Ecosystems services. Dr Bhaskar Vira from Cambridge University provided an excellent overview of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. There were also presentations from members from Scotland, Spain and Switzerland on their national approaches in this area. This started wide ranging discussions on valuing ecosystems services, connecting society with nature and also indicators. The network is interested in considering this topic further and is also aware of work ongoing in the ENCA Network.

There was an overview of the Rio+20 process and the two major themes for discussion, which are 1) green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and 2) the institutional framework for sustainable development. A number of EPAs are active in supporting the Rio process and agreed to share information on this. EPAs could also highlight examples of national green economy initiatives that could contribute to these themes.

There was an update on development of the 7EAP, which is currently open for public consultation. It is pleasing to note that many issues highlighted in previous Network consultation response have been included in proposals.

There was an informal exchange between the European Commission and the plenary on topics of interest to EPAs, for example the recent communication on implementation, the Blueprint for water, climate policy and the roadmap on resource efficiency.

The EEA also updated the meeting on recent developments including a report on the costs of air pollution from industry, use of indicators, resource policies and the planned report on Late lessons from early warnings.

Under emerging issues the plenary discussed EPA experiences in relation to shale gas and there was a suggestion for further work on this topic. A letter on regulation of fluorinated gases is also being developed and will be sent to the European Commission shortly. There was a short presentation on roadmaps for long term climate policies which will be discussed further at the next meeting

The 19th EPA Network plenary meeting will take place in Sofia, Bulgaria in September.