In 1957, when the EEC was founded, it had no environmental policy. Over the past 50 years, an increasingly dense network of legislation has been created, extending to all areas of environmental protection, including air pollution, water quality, waste management, nature conservation, and the control of chemicals, industrial hazards, and biotechnology. According to the Institute for European Environmental Policy, environmental law comprises over 500 Directives, Regulations and Decisions, making environmental policy a core area of European politics.
European policy-makers originally increased the EU’s capacity to act on environmental issues by defining it as a trade problem. Trade barriers and competitive distortions in the Common Market could emerge due to the different environmental standards in each member state. In subsequent years, the environment became a formal policy area, with its own policy actors, principles and procedures. The legal basis for EU environmental policy was established with the introduction of the Single European Act in 1987.
Initially, EU environmental policy focused on Europe. More recently, the EU has demonstrated leadership in global environmental governance, e.g. the role of the EU in securing the ratification and coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol despite opposition from the United States. This international dimension is reflected in the EU’s Sixth Environmental Action Programme, which recognises that its objectives can only be achieved if key international agreements are actively supported and properly implemented both at EU level and worldwide. The Lisbon Treaty further strengthened the leadership ambitions. EU law has played a significant role in improving habitat and species protection in Europe, as well as contributing to improvements in air and water quality and waste management.
Mitigating climate change is one of the top priorities of EU environmental policy. In 2007, member states agreed that, in the future, 20% of the energy used across the EU must be renewable, and carbon dioxide emissions have to be lower in 2020 by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels. The EU has adopted an emissions trading system to incorporate carbon emissions into the economy. The European Green Capital is an annual award given to cities that focuses on the environment, energy efficiency, and quality of life in urban areas to create smart city.
In the Elections to the European Parliament in 2019, the green parties increased their power, possibly because of the rise of post materialist values.
Proposals to reach a zero carbon economy in the European Union by 2050 were suggested in 2018 – 2019. Almost all member states supported that goal at an EU summit in June 2019. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, and Poland disagreed.
Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union#Environment_and_Climate (10.01.2020)