Dutch report assesses policies to meet long term environment goals

A report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP) has given an assessment of current European environmental policies to present to the Dutch EU presidency.

It praises the fact that environmental policy has led to economic investments that have clearly benefited the health of people and ecosystems, but says there are still important unresolved issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and air pollution in urban areas to deal with.

In order to achieve long term strategic goals, new policies should focus on clean, low-CO2 technology in energy generation, industry and transport, and a better financing of agricultural production and nature conservation, it says. In addition, it says the main challenge for EU environmental policy in the years ahead remains trying to exert pressure to give an appropriate economic value to the sustainable use of natural resources.

The report says that climate policies have been effective so far with respect to renewable energy, reduction of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, and improved energy efficiency in buildings, and says that without these policies, emissions would have been some 5% higher. However, it recommends an EU-wide emission reduction of 25-40% over the next 20 years to meet EU targets of restricting global warming.

It recommends tightening emission standards for transport to improve poor urban air quality and lower health risks associated with the environment and transport pollution in particular.

The report also highlights the fact that more efforts and financial resources are needed to preserve biodiversity which is being reduced through the ongoing exploitation of land and water. It seems highly unlikely that the target to halt further loss of biodiversity by 2010 will be met, as pressures such as the growth of infrastructure, intensive agriculture and serious overexploitation of fish stocks remain.

Agriculture is seen as the major obstacle to meeting the targets for a number of EU directives such as the nitrates and water framework directives, but the recent reform of the CAP has improved conditions for agricultural production within ecological constraints. Member states should make a priority of seizing the opportunities created by CAP reform, the report says.

MNP is one of four independent assessment agencies in the Netherlands. Its primary task is to advise the Dutch government on a wide variety of environmental issues.

By David Hopkins

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