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The Sixth Environment Action Programme of the European Community 2002-2012

Over the past decade the 6th Community Environment Action Programme (EAP) has helped ensure that environment legislation is in place to tackle most environmental challenges in the EU. This was a key finding of the final assessment of the 6th EAP (2002-2012) adopted in August 2011. Major accomplishments in the field of environment during the past ten years include the extension of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas to cover over 18% of the EU's land area, the introduction of a comprehensive chemicals policy, and robust policy action on climate change. However, the EU is still progress to be made in implementing agreed EU environmental legislation and in halting biodiversity loss and improving soil and water quality. Furthermore, efforts to decouple resource use from economic growth have not yet brought about a decrease in overall resources use.

Commissioner Janez Potočnik commented: "We have obtained good results – but not always as good as we hoped for. Better implementation of EU rules by Member States is needed to close the gap between the 6th EAP's legislative ambitions and its end-results. Our goal now is to move from remediation to prevention of environmental degradation. The final assessment of the Programme will prompt the launch of a wide public debate to define the orientations for EU environment policy over the next years."

Although the 6th EAP is in its final year, the Commission continues to pursue an ambitious environment policy, which is now an integral part of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The current dialogue between the Commission, Council, Parliament, civil society and business aims at building consensus on the strategic orientations for environment policy, to ensure broad ownership and to secure mobilisation for action. Against this background, the Commission is currently developing a new environment action programme with a view to providing added value in the rapidly evolving environment policy context.