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| Framework Programmes for Research

The ever-increasing interest in environmental issues began to be reflected in the European Union’s broad research programmes – the so-called Framework Programmes (FP) for research and technological development – in the early 1990s.

Earlier FPs placed much more emphasis on defining the problems and acquiring the necessary knowledge to better understand how ecosystems function. They also started looking into developing environmental protection technologies.

By the time FP5 was launched in 1998 – to run for four years – the Union was able to build upon 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 (see Politicy Framework page).

Later that year, FP6 was launched and will continue until 2006. It was designed to provide a basis for achieving the goals enshrined in the European Research Area (see Research and the ERA on this site) – 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. And, as the results from EU-funded projects pour in, organisations and individuals must be encouraged to apply them and develop them (see Cases in their respective themes).

Environmental research in FP6

In the wake of the Gothenburg Summit of European leaders, in 2001, the EU changed its approach to sustainable development. Environmental research in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) now forms part of a thematic priority on ‘Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems’, and is on the same footing as energy and transport.

As such, the total budget of €2.12 billion for this research priority has been divided into three main sub-groups: global change and ecosystems (€700 million), sustainable energy systems (€810 million), and sustainable surface transport (€610 million).

However, this website is dedicated to research in the Global change and ecosystems group which covers such topics as:

  • Greenhouse gases
  • Water cycle
  • Biodiversity
  • Desertification, natural disasters
  • Sustainable land management
  • Operational forecasting and modelling
  • Complementary research
This new ‘dedicated’ theme enables progress to be made in promoting the further inclusion and integration of various sustainable development-related research activities, mainly by forging closer ties with agricultural and socio-economic research. It will foster the convergence of European and national research efforts for common definitions of sustainability thresholds and encourage international co-operation . This, in turn, will help achieve common goals in response to climate change, including the physical, chemical and biological make-up of the Earth’s system (i.e. its oceans, atmosphere and land), especially the interaction between humans and the environment.

Objectives of FP6 research

Broadly speaking, the programme aims to boost Europe’s understanding and ability to detect and forecast global and climate change. It should also help policy-makers devise strategies for preventing and mitigating such changes and – working closely with relevant international research programmes and in line with the respective conventions – work on adapting practices to protect the environment.

FP6 also aims to preserve fragile ecosystems and protect biodiversity which should also feed into the sustainable use of land and marine resources. Regarding climate (global) change, strategies for integrated, sustainable management of agricultural and forest ecosystems are particularly important and will make a large contribution to Europe’s sustainable development.

Participating in FP6 research

To qualify for EU support, projects involving the sub-priority ‘Global change and ecosystems’ should focus on providing a better understanding of ecosystems and of the mechanism of global change, including the effect these mechanisms have on land and marine resources, and the development of related forecasting capacities.

Environmental research in FP5

The Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) integrates research results from many scientific and technological disciplines – and from a variety of EU and national initiatives – to create, demonstrate and assess new and holistic solutions addressing a wide spectrum of needs.

The programme, which ran from 1998-2002, supported generic research in the fields of hazard protection, Earth observation and the socio-economic aspects of climate change. It also strengthened the coordination and development of Europe’s infrastructures in certain key areas: climate change, biodiversity, ocean management, and natural hazards.

Research activities in FP5 were grouped into two broad categories: ‘environment and sustainable development’ and ‘energy’. But this website mostly covers the projects and activities in the first category, which are described below:

Key Actions

  • Sustainable management and quality of water
  • Global change, climate and biodiversity
  • Sustainable marine ecosystems
  • The city of tomorrow and cultural heritage

Generic research and technological development activities

  • Fight against major natural and technological hazards
  • Development of generic Earth observation satellite technologies
  • Studying the socio-economic aspects of environmental change within the perspective of sustainable development (impact on society, the economy and employment)

Support for research infrastructures

  • Climate and global change research facilities
  • Marine research facilities
  • Natural hazards research facilities


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