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New strategy needed to reduce EU's environmental footprint

The EU's next flagship environment strategy, the Seventh Environment Action Programme, must take steps and set targets to protect the EU's environment and spur more efficient use of energy and natural resources, said MEPs voting on a resolution on Friday. Environmentally-harmful subsidies should be phased out by 2020, they say.

MEPs want the Commission to propose a Seventh Environmental Action Programme (EAP) as soon as possible, given that the current sixth edition expires in July.

"We urgently need a new programme to enable the EU to reduce its environmental footprint and curb Europe's unsustainable consumption of resources. The programme should help achieve targets for 2020, set mid-term 2030 targets for emissions reductions, energy efficiency and renewables, and set out a vision for the state of the environment in Europe in 2050", said Parliament's rapporteur Jo Leinen (S&D, DE), after the resolution was adopted by a show of hands.

Parliament says the 7th EAP should help mainstream climate change and other environmental objectives across all policy areas, particularly in industry, transport, agriculture and fisheries.

Resources, energy and waste

Concerned about current unsustainable levels of energy and resource consumption, MEPs say "an absolute reduction of resource use is urgently needed". The EAP should reflect the need for binding targets for energy efficiency, they add.

As well as better enforcing existing EU waste legislation, MEPs say the new framework programme "should set more ambitious prevention, re-use and recycling targets, including a net decrease of waste generation".

Water and land

Water legislation is in the spotlight at the moment, with the Commission due to present a 'Blueprint' for water policy later this year. Parliament's resolution urges Member States to fully and effectively implement existing water rules.

MEPs also called for targets to be drawn up to ensure sustainability of land use and reminded the Commission that sustainability criteria are needed for biofuels and biomass.

Emerging threats and harmful subsidies

Environment Committee MEPs want the new EAP to properly address emerging threats to human and animal health, such as nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors and the combination effects of chemicals.

The programme should also include a strict and detailed plan both at European and national level for the phasing-out of all environmentally harmful subsidies by 2020, for example to avoid adverse affects on biodiversity, which was the subject of a separate resolution approved by MEPs on the same day.