Environment and resource efficiency
EU Cohesion Policy supports sustainable growth by promoting water and waste management, environmentally-friendly and innovative clean technologies, as well as measures targeted at the protection of air, biodiversity and nature. Through these investments, the Funds play an important role in boosting the implementation of EU environmental policies.
The EU Structural and Investment Funds help to protect and preserve natural assets such as water, nature and biodiversity, clean air or raw materials. It includes investing in the needed infrastructures for wastewater treatment and waste management (such as recycling), but also measures to monitor the state of the environment or developing green infrastructure. In doing so the environment represents a source of economic growth and new job opportunities.
Regarding water management, to which about EUR 14 billion is allocated, the largest share of the available budget will go to wastewater treatment infrastructure, in Member States that still need to fulfil basic needs in this area. It includes the construction or upgrading of wastewater treatment plans and sewerage networks, but also sewage sludge management. Further investments will contribute to the availability and security of drinking water services, and to water management and conservation including water reuse.
More than EUR 4 billion is allocated to improved waste management, including basic waste treatment infrastructure in the regions with basic needs. These investments are in line with the waste hierarchy and based on national and regional waste management plans. In addition, Cohesion Policy invests in innovation and supports SMEs to help achieve the objectives of a circular economy.
Cohesion Policy also supports investments that boost the implementation of the EU's biodiversity and nature policies, in particular through the Habitats and Birds Directives and by strengthening the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. In addition, during the programming of the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy, a strong emphasis was placed on supporting green infrastructure (e.g. flood plains, green walls and roofs), especially in cities.
Furthermore, Cohesion Policy also contributes to eco-tourism by conserving, protecting, promoting and developing natural and cultural heritage. It is taking action to improve the urban environment, to revitalise cities, regenerate and decontaminate brownfield sites, reduce air pollution and promote noise-reduction measures. It supports the industrial transition towards a resource-efficient economy, promoting green growth, eco-innovation and environmental performance management in the public and private sectors.
The ex-post evaluation of water and waste investments in the 2007-2013 period found that Cohesion Policy provided a major contribution to achieving EU water and waste targets in many EU13 and southern EU15 Member States. Thanks to the waste investments, the recycling rate increased in almost all EU13 Member States. Water projects improved drinking water supply for at least 4 million EU citizens and contributed to better wastewater treatment for over 7 million EU citizens.
Find out more about :
- Connecting Smart and Sustainable Growth through Smart Specialisation - A practical guide for ERDF Managing Authorities
- Guide to Multi-Benefit Cohesion Policy Investments in Nature and Green Infrastructure
- Thematic Guidance Fiche on Biodiversity, Green Infrastructure, Ecosystem Services and Natura 2000
- Thematic Guidance Fiche on Water Management
- Thematic Guidance Fiche on Waste Management
- Cohesion Policy support for the circular economy
- Research and innovation
- Information and communication technologies
- SME competitiveness
- Low carbon economy