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Environmental research

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With environmental concerns having grown in visibility in recent years, this is the time to pursue actions for a sustainable and environmentally friendly Europe. That will require extensive environmental research and development as we endeavour to contribute to tackling these major 21st century challenges. Environment is a field where collaborative research traditionally has proven to be highly fruitful. Furthermore, the challenges posed by the increasing natural and man-made pressures on the environment and its resources require a coordinated approach at pan-European and international levels. In order to address these challenges, the theme dealing with environment (including climate change) has a budget of €1.9 billion under the FP7 Cooperation programme (2007–13). A wide range of research topics are addressed, which can be grouped under 10 research priorities:

Climate change

Natural hazards

Environment and health

Natural resources management


Marine environment

Land and urban management

Environmental technologies including Cultural heritage

Earth observation

Sustainable and environmentally friendly Europe

Assessment tools for sustainable development

The objectives

FP7 environmental research has a twofold objective: on the one hand it is to promote the sustainable management of the environment and its resources through increasing knowledge about the interactions between the climate, biosphere, ecosystems and human activities. On the other hand, it is also to develop new technologies, tools and services that address global environmental issues. Emphasis is being placed on prediction tools and technologies for monitoring, prevention, mitigation of and adaptation to environmental pressures and risks. Specific attention is also being given to informing decision-makers in their design of environmental policy, as well as business leaders and ordinary citizens about the challenges and opportunities they face.

Before FP7

The ever-increasing interest in environmental issues began to be reflected in the EU’s framework programmes for research and technological development in the early 1990s. Earlier framework programmes placed much more emphasis on defining the problems and acquiring the necessary knowledge to better understand how ecosystems function. By the time FP5 was launched in 1998 – to run for four years – the EU was able to build on this scientific basis with more action-based research activities focusing on a combination of environmental and energy issues. At the same time, it began to look into how sustainable development – in a more generic context than currently understood – fitted into the environmental picture. This was later reflected in the EU’s contribution to the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, in 2002. Later that year, FP6 was launched. It was designed to provide a basis for achieving the goals enshrined in the European Research Area principally, better coordinated science policy resulting in more integrated and dynamic projects. Successive research programmes have led to many of the new technologies on which sustainable development depends – for instance, new sensor systems to monitor pollutants in rivers and reservoirs supplying drinking water.