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Environmental research, knowledge and innovation

EU environmental policies have been built upon scientific findings, and their implementation requires continued monitoring and assessments. Policy evaluations and review, as well as the design of new policy initiatives, require constant updates on the state of the planet. Also, emerging issues may suddenly reach the agenda of decision-makers, who need to be duly prepared to react. The Treaty on the functioning of the European Union foresees that, "in preparing its policy on the environment, the Union shall take account of available scientific and technical data" (art 191).

One of the priority objectives of the 7th EU Environment Action Programme is to ensure that EU policy-makers benefit from credible and updated knowledge for their policy decision. The pace of current developments and uncertainties surrounding likely future trends requires further steps to maintain and strengthen this knowledge and evidence base on environmental monitoring, data, indicators and assessments linked to the implementation of Union legislation, as well as formal scientific research and ‘citizen science’ initiatives. A number of actions are put in place to respond to this challenge:

  • The current EU Research and Innovation programme - Horizon 2020 - provides the opportunity to focus research efforts and to deploy Europe’s innovation potential to improve the state of and knowledge on the environment.

  • To strengthen the links between science and policy, the European Commission's Directorate-General Environment launched "Science for Environment Policy", a bi-weekly service of easy to read news alerts on new scientific findings in the field of priority environmental issues.

  • The main EU services involved in environmental knowledge have created an informal platform in 2015 – the Environment Knowledge Community - which aims at improving the way environmental knowledge is generated and shared for policy use.

  • One of the projects of the EKC partners has been to establish FORENV, the EU foresight system for the systematic identification of emerging environmental issues. FORENV responds to the requirement of the 7EAP to improve our understanding of emerging environmental & climate risks as well as to evaluate and manage them. The objective of FORENV is to help policy-makers and stakeholders to foresee these emerging issues and to address them. At the same time, it should help to exploit any emerging opportunities as well.

  • The European Environment Agency provides sound, independent information on the environment for those involved in developing, adopting, implementing and evaluating environmental policy, and also the general public.

  • The EU funding programme devoted to environment, LIFE, was set up in 1992 to improve the quality of the environment through innovative techniques and methods.