EU environmental indicator plan announced

Commission announces environmental integration plan for transport, agriculture, energy

The European Commission has announced it will produce a set of environmental indicators for the transport, energy and agricultural sectors, which could be used to set targets for reducing environmental damage.

Ritt Bjerregaard, the European commissioner in charge of environment, told the European Parliament yesterday that the Commission would propose the indicators "during the course of 1999". ENDS Daily has learned that the Commission is setting up a committee of member state representatives which will meet next month to consider indicator criteria.

During a parliamentary debate on the integration environmental considerations into other policies, Austrian environment minister, Martin Bartenstein said that sustainability indicators were an essential step in the integration process. He said meetings of EU ministers from these three sectors should now discuss what shape the indicators should take, and indicated that this would take at least a year.

Ms Bjerregaard said indicators would be used for "monitoring and development of new policies". Although she avoided any explicit reference to using the indicators as a basis for setting sectoral targets, she warned that environmental integration would not be without pain. "All sectors have to accept the fact that they cause part of the problem and are expected to provide part of the solution," she told MEPs. Sources at her environment directorate have revealed that the indicators would "ideally" be the basis for reduction targets.

Transport, energy and agriculture were singled out by EU heads of state meeting in Cardiff earlier this year as the sectors that should lead the way in integrating environmental issues into their policy-making (ENDS Daily 17 June). At that summit "all relevant formations of the Council" were invited to develop environmental integration strategies, and at a summit in Vienna in December, these three will present progress reports on how far they have got in that process.

A Commission official said she expected these progress reports to set targets and timetables for completing the strategies. She added that draft copies of reports from the transport and energy Council - which could change before Vienna - contained timetables for action and looked "quite comprehensive". The agriculture strategy would be based on the major "Agenda 2000" reforms of the Common Agriculture Policy, she said.

Ms Bjerregaard rejected calls for a framework directive on environmental integration, contained in a resolution adopted by Parliament today (ENDS Daily 28 October). She said she failed to see how a directive would work and that the Commission's proposed directive on strategic environmental assessments, which has just begun its passage through Parliament (ENDS Daily 23 October), would "go a long way" to boosting the integration process.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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