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Energy, environment and sustainable development

Environment, Energy, Europe - an Investment for Now and the Future

Securing a better world for present generations without compromising the future requires an integrated, Europe-wide approach to economic growth and environmental protection.

Developing a clean, efficient and secure energy supply, promoting more environmentally-friendly uses of energy, improving the way natural resources are managed, and making industry, utilities and society more environmentally benign are all important investments in Europe's future. We need to understand our environment better, how it relates to society, how this new knowledge can be implemented, and we need to develop the tools and technologies to take us towards this future.

Sharing the Burden
Environmental problems do not respect national borders, so the European Union has a critical role in finding their solutions. The EU's technical skill and scientific talent must be focused on Europe-wide problems, ranging from managing our cities to developing new forms of renewable energy. Europe-wide eco-standards must be set for both industry and society in general to improve everything from the health of our rivers to the cleanliness of our beaches. And the EU's international commitments to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases must be met for the security of the planet.

Underpinning the EU's approach is the concept of 'eco-efficiency' - to produce and use more and better services and products with less material, energy and waste. The result will be twofold. First, waste and pollution will be minimised, improving the health of the environment and everyone living and operating within it. Second, new opportunities will be created for business, both through making it more efficient and through promoting new technologies for this rapidly growing global market. EU research programmes have played a vitally important part in this approach since they were launched in the 1980s. The European Union's Fifth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (1998-2002) focuses on those areas where European co-operation can make the most impact. Each area is covered by a 'key action', a results-oriented initiative capable of assembling a critical mass of resources from the public and private sectors across Europe. These key actions are underpinned by more generic research and activities designed to help Europe make the most of its R&D infrastructure.

The Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development (EESD) programme - one part of the Fifth Framework Programme - illustrates this perfectly, creating a single, integrated platform for stimulating a pan-European approach to the closely related areas of environmental and energy research. The Nuclear Energy programme, separate because of its distinct legal basis in the Euratom Treaty but implemented in close coordination with the EESD programme, aims to help exploit the full potential of nuclear energy in a sustainable manner.

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