Members' Research Service By / May 26, 2017

Environmental protection: an opportunity for a better future

Written by Didier Bourguignon. Green Week, an annual event on European environment policy, takes place from 29 May to 2 June 2017. This…

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Written by Didier Bourguignon.

Green Week, an annual event on European environment policy, takes place from 29 May to 2 June 2017. This year’s edition will focus on ‘Green jobs for a greener future’.

The potential of green jobs

nakedking / Fotolia

According to a recent Eurobarometer survey for the European Parliament, the ‘fight against unemployment’ and ‘environmental protection’ rank in the top three areas where Europeans would like more action from the European Union (EU), with respectively 78 % and 75 % of Europeans wanting the EU to do more. Green jobs is a key policy combining the two concerns.

Creating green jobs could boost the labour market at the same time as increasing sustainability. Green jobs generally contribute to preserving or restoring environmental quality in a range of sectors (for instance by protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, increasing resource efficiency, decarbonising the economy, and avoiding waste and pollution).

The renewable energy sector, supported by various policies at EU and national level, employs over a million people in the EU. The European Commission’s environmental implementation review indicates that full compliance with existing EU legislation on waste, water and nature protection could create 574 000 new jobs. A circular economy could create between 580 000 and 2 million additional jobs in the EU, according to Commission estimates. In addition, the Commission notes, in relation to biodiversity protection, that one in six jobs depends on nature.

For a better future

EU environmental policy is broad and affects our daily life.

The EU aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 % below 1990 levels by 2030. To make this a reality, a reform of the EU emissions trading system for the period 2020-2030 is currently underway and emission reduction targets in other sectors (in particular transport, buildings and agriculture) are being reviewed.

The EU also intends to move towards a circular economy where products and materials are valued highly and where waste is reduced to a minimum. To achieve this, the European Parliament and the Council are discussing new targets related to waste management (in particular increasing recycling and reducing landfilling) and new rules on fertilisers. The European Parliament has also called for action on food waste.

The EU pursues ambitious goals on biodiversity (halting biodiversity loss of and restoring ecosystems by 2020) and on freshwater bodies (achieving good status for all surface water and groundwater by 2015). However, meeting these targets is a challenge.

Other topics related to environmental protection, like rules on the authorisation of pesticides, have also attracted a lot of attention recently.

Let’s get greener together

On 8 June 2017, European institutions (including the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council and others) will hold an event on the theme ‘Let’s get greener together’ in the context of the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). The webstreamed event (morningafternoon) will be an opportunity to showcase recent measures, in particular the greening of EU buildings and action by EU staff to protect urban biodiversity.


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