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Glossary of summaries

Glossary of summaries


The EU’s environmental policy, based on Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, aims to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment and to protect human health. It also focuses on the careful and rational use of natural resources and contributes to promoting, at the international level, measures intended to combat regional or global environmental problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss. It is based on precautionary and preventive action, correction at source and the ‘polluter-pays’ principle.

The EU is competent to act in areas of environmental policy such as air and water pollution, nature protection and restoration, waste management and climate change. The principle of subsidiarity, however, limits the scope of EU action with regard to tax-related matters, spatial planning and land use, along with quantitative water resource management.

EU’s environmental policies are designed to speed the transition to a sustainable, innovative, circular economy, where biodiversity is protected, valued and restored and environment-related health risks are minimised. It aims to enhance the EU’s resilience and to decouple growth from resource use.

In December 2019, the European Commission adopted the European Green Deal, its roadmap to address climate change and environmental degradation. The roadmap aims to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy by:

  • boosting the efficient use of resources;
  • moving to a clean, circular economy;
  • restoring biodiversity; and
  • reducing pollution.

Moreover, the 8th environmental action programme that is currently (2021) in preparation will guide environmental and climate policymaking and implementation until 2030.