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| Environmental Technologies

Technology and care for the environment are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, if economic growth and social well being are to spread in a sustainable manner then this will have to be achieved through the proper application of technology.

Some technologies favour the environment more than others, such as wind power, zero waste industrial processes and catalytic converters in cars – these are considered as ‘environmental technologies’.

However, their take-up and implementation is sometimes held back because they are not well known and they require high initial investments, while the external environmental costs of conventional – generally more polluting – technologies are not accounted for in the price the consumer pays, so there is less incentive for manufacturers to become ‘greener’.

Removing barriers

Recognising the undesirable barriers to the wider take-up of environmental technologies, the European Commission launched the Environmental Technology Action Plan (ETAP), in January 2004. ETAP is identifying 11 priority actions that could make a difference at the EU level. They aim to boost the development and deployment of environmental technologies in a range of sectors.

Three of these are in the field of research where the emphasis is on:

  • Strengthening research in environmental technologies and especially the dissemination of results
  • Establishing technology platforms to coordinate research more effectively among stakeholders
  • Setting up networks of test centres for environmental technologies to build confidence among consumers and industry.

Current actions

Four ETAP-relevant technology platforms are operating in 2004: hydrogen and fuel cells, photovoltaics, water and steel. These platforms bring together researchers, public and private bodies and financing institutions with a shared interest in the particular technology sector.

Testing Centre Networks – addressing the lack of agreed verification of new technologies’ performance – are also being established along sectoral lines, such as soil decontamination and renewable energy. For more on ETAP, please refer to the Research Challenges and Policy Framework pages on this website.

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