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  • 8 July 2014: A European Science and Technology Network on unconventional hydrocarbon extraction was launched. Practitioners from industry, research, academia and civil society are welcome to express their interest in participating in this network by 15th September 2014. More information...

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Energy and environment

Windmill

Energy and environmental policies are inextricably linked. All energy production and consumption has environmental impacts. Whilst it is often tempting to overlook the environment during difficult economic times, the challenges of producing and using energy resources sustainably and protecting our natural environment equally represent an opportunity to pursue sustainable economic growth.

In many regards energy and environmental objectives go hand in hand, such as:

    • energy efficiency and reducing energy use: saving energy can help avoid impacts associated with extractive industries and with energy generation, transformation, distribution and consumption in general. It can help reducing GHG emissions, air pollution, impacts to surface and ground waters, habitat fragmentation and biodiversity disturbance through infrastructure and land use, etc. The EU has put forward several measures to improve efficiency at all stages of the energy chain and it is aiming for a 20% cut in Europe's annual primary energy consumption by 2020 (read more).

    • measures to increase the share of sustainable renewable energy sources in the energy mix can lower overall environmental and climatic pressures compared to other forms of energy. Such measures can also contribute to improved resource efficiency where they result in a more efficient utilisation of non-recyclable waste streams.

    • Measures aiming at using resources in a more efficient way also contribute to reducing energy demand: this is in particular the case when products are re-used, materials recycled, when all production and consumption chains are organised in a more efficient way.  

However, under some circumstances, energy-environment interactions can entail a number of risks or trade-offs, whether related to climate, air, land, biodiversity, waste or water. EU environmental legislation and the Commission's Resource Efficiency agenda are there to ensure that EU policies make the most of all the potential for reducing risks and impacts of resource and energy consumption. This will bring direct and indirect health and environmental improvements, reduce imports and allow the EU to better compete internationally in a world of constrained resources.

In this context DG ENV is working on gathering further knowledge on environmental impacts and risks of energy resources and assessing relevant policies, notably via external studies and modelling, as well as providing guidance on the application of existing EU environmental legislation to specific energy resources. It is also collaborating with other services on interlinkages between environment, energy, research and innovation, climate change and taxation policies.

For further information, please refer to:

Energy Strategy for Europe

European Climate Change Programme

Carbon capture and storage

Research and innovation

Energy taxation