Here you will find a short description of what is the role of research in different environmental policy areas as well as the related research needs.
Research related to climate change is a key issue for sustainable development.
Research projects, based on climate modelling and climate observations, help to reduce uncertainties surrounding climate change and its potential impact.
Also, climate change researchers work on mitigation options and their cost implications for the economy, as well as on new technologies with the potential to reduce these costs.
The long-term objective of research in this area is to move to towards low carbon economy and zero emissions. This is directly related to improving the environmental performance of energy and transport systems, such as promoting and developing renewable energy sources.
International cooperation, especially with developing countries, is crucial for the success of the climate change research efforts.
Research activities in this field concentrate on the impacts of most significant pressures on biodiversity, on how to prevent and reduce those pressures, how to anticipate and improve the effectiveness of the relevant policy instruments such as the NATURA 2000 network initiative for biodiversity conservation and protection.
Research projects also focus on collecting information on status, trends and distribution of all habitats and species of Community interest and policy relevance.
Research is also necessary to better understand the feedbacks between biodiversity and climate change and to assess the potential of biodiversity and ecosystem services to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaption.
Initiatives are underway towards an "Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services " (IPBES). An "EU Advisory Mechanism on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services" was called for in the Commission Communication "Halting the Loss Biodiversity by 2010" (COM (2006) 216 final).
The European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy (EPBRS) provides a framework for future biodiversity research orientations.
Protection of water resources, of fresh and salt water ecosystems and of the water we drink and bathe in is therefore one of the cornerstones of environmental protection in Europe. The stakes are high and the issues transcend national boundaries and concerted action at the level of the EU is necessary to ensure an effective protection.
EU research programmes support the implementation of water policies such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD), Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the EU Floods Directive , including their international and pan-European dimension.
In line with the Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources developed by the European Commission, research seeks to address environmental impacts taking into consideration the whole life cycle of the resources.
Research develops and validates new methods to assess environmental impacts of waste generation and management, to establish knowledge bases on such impacts, to develop indicators to measure progress in reducing these impacts, to highlight advantages and drawbacks of new waste management and recycling technologies.
In the context of the Integrated Product Policy , research develops methods to compare the social impacts of a product across its life-cycle.
Soil is formed by mineral particles, organic matter, water, air and living organisms. It is in fact an extremely complex, variable and living medium. The interface between the earth, the air and the water, soil is a non-renewable resource which performs many vital functions: food and other biomass production, storage, filtration and transformation of many substances including water, carbon, nitrogen. Soil has a role as a habitat and gene pool, serves as a platform for human activities, landscape and heritage and acts as a provider of raw materials. These functions are worthy of protection because of their socio-economic as well as environmental importance.
The Commission adopted a Soil Thematic Strategy (COM(2006) 231) with the objective to protect soils across the EU. Currently, soil research serves the definition and development of the key issues for the Soil Thematic Strategy .
A clean air supply is essential to our own health and that of the environment, including ecosystems. But since the industrial revolution, the quality of the air we breathe has deteriorated considerably - mainly as a result of human activities. The issue of air quality is now a major concern for many European citizens. It is also one of the areas in which the European Union has been most active. As the result of EU legislation, much progress has been made in tackling air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and benzene. However, despite a reduction in some harmful emissions, air quality continues to cause problems. More needs to be done at local, national, European and international level. At European level, the Clean Air For Europe (CAFE) programme and the E & H Action Plan are the main policy drivers for air pollution research.
Health protection is one of the two main drivers of environmental policy, the other being ecosystem protection. In this respect, research related to environment and health includes not only the Environment and Health Action Plan (2004-2010), but also the health aspects of air quality, water quality, chemicals, pesticides, biocides and other policies.
Research plays an important role in measuring as precisely as possible the main health impacts due to environmental stressors (for example, exposure parameters for those stressors, dose-response relationships, causal mechanisms).
Also, it can help to develop new methods for assessing the health impact and how to reduce this impact in the most cost-effective way.
Research helps to meet the targets of the regulatory framework REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) by developing alternative testing methods, improving and simplifying risk-assessment procedures, improving and developing new toxicological and eco-toxicological methods. It has also a role to play in modelling and screening methods for dangerous chemical substances.
In addition, chemical research projects develop clean chemical production processes and work on solutions enabling to reduce and eliminate the use and generation of chemicals that are hazardous for people and the environment
Research projects measure and assess the impact of noise on the environment and human health, helping the Member States in implementation of the EU Noise Directive . The Joint Research Center of the Commission at ISPRA carries out research activities about environmental noise modelling and combined environmental exposure.
Research aims at developing more sustainable farming approaches in particular alternative methods to the use of chemical pesticides in farming and non-farming sectors, assessing external costs of pesticides as well as assessing the effects of pesticides on biodiversity. Current and future projects will support the implementation of the Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides.
The European Commission's Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP) supports the development of environmentally friendly and eco-efficient innovative technologies for all main industrial sectors. It also facilitates the uptake of such technologies through demonstration activities and technology transfer.
The European Technology Platforms, which are public-private partnerships created to define and implement a research strategy for the future development of significant technologies, are an important element of ETAP. Examples include: Photovoltaics, Steel or Water supply and sanitation technologies.
Research activities are in line with the vision of the EU Strategy for Sustainable Development, adopted at the Gothenburg European Council in 2001. Projects aim at supporting more sustainable urban and land use policies in the EU regions and cities.
European research on sustainable urban management and land use is driven by the EU's Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment.
The Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment will increase the pressure on cities to improve their environmental performance. For instance, it may oblige the cities with more than 100,000 population to establish plans for sustainable urban management and transport. Such obligations are likely to have a positive impact on linked economic and social activities: industry, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism.
Much has already been achieved in the previous EU Research Framework Programmes 5th Research Framework Programme, 1998-2002, and 6th Research Framework Programme, 2002 - 2006), in particular within the Key Action "City of tomorrow and cultural heritage" (FP5). The Key Action co-financed over 140 research projects, covering a wide spectrum of issues relevant to the sustainable management of urban areas. Topics ranged from urban management, planning and governance to more specific issues such as energy and waste management, mobility and transport, air quality, housing and cultural heritage. Under FP7, several "Sustainable Surface Transport" calls have already closed and proposals for research projects received under these calls have started. Several initiatives supported by the European Commission contribute to the objectives of the Sustainable Urban Development in the European Union, such as The European Green Capital Award, The CIVITAS Initiative on sustainable transport modes and The CONCERTO funding scheme.
EU Research Success Stories:
Please see the DG Research website for success stories, including environmental research but not only.