30th EPA Network plenary, Dublin

The European Network of the Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA Network) held its 30th plenary meeting in Dublin, Ireland, on 12-13 April 2018. The meeting was hosted by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency.

About 70 participants representing around 30 environmental organizations from across Europe and representatives from the European Commission and IMPEL took part in the meeting.

Laura Burke, Director General of the Irish Environmental Protection Agency opened the meeting. The first session started with the country presentation made by Irish EPA; the presentation highlighted the responsibilities and coordination role of the Irish EPA with local authorities as well as key elements of the EPA’s action plan: environment health and wellbeing, climate change, implementation of legislation. The presentation was followed by the video “Story of a pencil” by two students who won the competition “The Story of Your Stuff” (Iga Manulak and Emma Jackson).

The first Session continued with the EU environmental policy update from Daniel Calleja Crespo Director General of DG Environment – European Commission (EC). He updated on the recent EU policy developments. Amongst others, the EC is working on two overarching themes: sustainable finance and SDGs. It was stated that there is no agreed upon definition for sustainable finance and there is a need to develop common understanding on this topic. Concerning SDGs, the EC will produce its first reflection paper on SDGs also linked to the recent French proposal “Global pact for the environment”. Concerning the EC plastic strategy, it was highlighted that two steps are still to be done; they are the single use plastic proposal and the water re-use proposal, a legislative proposal on the reuse of urban wastewater for agricultural purposes where common standards need to be identified.

Hans Bruyninckx Executive Director of the European Environment Agency (EEA) updated the plenary on the ongoing and planned work of EEA and its contribution to the recent European Commission policy developments.

Prof. Martin Cormican opened the second Session on Communicating Science with a presentation regarding science communication challenges. Discussion took place in three break-out groups (the power of words, the power of images, the power of the narrator) after introductory speeches in each group. Discussion outcomes from the three break-out groups will be summarised in a short output document and will be made available to Network members.

In the third Session, participants presented and discussed the activities of the EPA Network since the last plenary meeting in Stockholm 2017. The chairs of the Interest Groups on Better Regulation and Citizen Science updated the plenary on the progress made in the past months. The progress of IG Green and Circular Economy was presented by the Director General Lea Kauppi from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) while the progress of the IG Plastic was made by the Deputy Director Wolfgang Seidel from German Environment Agency (UBA). The Interest Group on Green and Circular Economy presented two papers for endorsement (Note on Service Life of Products Countering Obsolescence and Turning waste into secondary materials on the way towards a circular economy). The EPA Network also discussed the results of the updated survey on the role of the EPA Network and decided to give a possibility to EPAs who have not yet responded to fill in the survey.

The 2nd day of the meeting started with the Session on Citizen Science and with several presentations of projects carried out with citizens and student involvement in measuring and gathering environmental data and in helping to create knowledge. EEA presented a proposal for a joint EEA/EPA network project on citizen science and air quality. Three main objectives were highlighted: to raise awareness, to provide better knowledge at local level on air quality, to support the European Commission’s fitness check of environmental monitoring and reporting (Action 8: ‘Promote the wider use of citizen science to complement environmental reporting’). The positive reactions from 12 EPAs willing to join the project confirmed the good basis to move further with the project proposal; to this regard, it was decided to involve for consultation the Eionet NRC on air quality for their technical expertise, and then to further engage with the IG Citizen Science.

In the closing Session, EPAs presented emerging issues and scientific advances. The Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) presented several innovative projects on emerging issues and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency made a presentation on the next EPA Network Plenary meeting that will be held in Edinburgh on the 20-21 September 2018. Finally, the main conclusion and action points of the meeting were summarized.