The European Union need to keep up the momentum of fighting climate, Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella said.

Following the EU Green Week 2019, which ended on 17 May, Vella picked up this year’s claim ‘Take the initiative! Applying environmental legislation’ and concluded: “After the work this week, we have taken that initiative and turned it into action. That action needs to continue – because you only make environmental progress when you all pull together. There are remarkable efforts underway around the EU – the task now is to keep that momentum going!”

That was the take-home message for EU Green Week 2019.”

After two years’ work, recently the European Commission adopted the second Environmental Implementation Review (EIR), a look at what is working in environment policy, and what still needs to be done.

“It was greatly needed because despite our excellent, extensive legislation, not all of our policies are performing as well as they could. This is due to implementation gaps. These are damaging the environment and are also harming peoples’ health. They stifle sustainable economic development,” Vella said, adding that full implementation of EU environmental legislation could save the EU economy around €55 billion every year.

“There could be no better reason for devoting Green Week to implementing our environmental legislation. When we drew up the programme, we wanted to maximise the opportunities for exchange. We wanted everyone to share their views, learn from each other, and have their say on the issues. And that is exactly what happened,” the Commissioner said, noting that civil society, youth, policymakers, regions, cities, lawyers, judges, civil servants, and major players in the European marketplace contributed to this.

“Some wonderful efforts going on at grassroots level have been showcased and we’ve seen many things moving in the right direction. It has been clear that improving environmental implementation and governance has a positive effect on society,” Vella said.

“We’ve also seen that the rule of law is alive and well, with democratic engagement paying dividends for citizens and their local environment all across the EU. We have seen that political support and close collaboration with authorities, stakeholders, NGOs and local communities are central to long-term success and sustainability, as well ensuring wider socio-economic benefits,” the Commissioner said.

He noted that environmental information should be made available in a clear way. Transparency and dialogue are essential to ensure effective implementation of environmental legislation and lead to understanding and acceptance, he said.

“It was confirmed that successful implementation of the environmental policy requires integration of environmental concerns in other sectors and better communication between actors. And we saw that authorities react to legal action and things get done, but it’s much better to find solutions with all those involved before that,” Vella said.

“Green Week has shown, once more, that more and more people are taking action and adapting their lifestyle, like the students and others taking to the streets of Stockholm, Prague, Brussels, and Milan every Friday. Businesses also increasingly see the benefits of the new green economy,” he said.

Vella noted that EU Green Week would be devoted to biodiversity. Two weeks ago, there was the first IPBES global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services. “A frightening report that shows that the global ecological crisis is now on a par with climate change and that the world needs fast, transformational change,” he said.

“Next year we will have the Biodiversity COP in China and it will be crucial that the EU continues to take the global lead. The challenges we face today are global, and they demand a global response. Environmental policy is blazing a trail here, making the case for strong multilateralism, with the EU as its guardian,” Vella said, adding that the SDGs and the Paris agreement would not exist without our determination to make them happen. He concluded, “Green Week will help us to feed into our preparations for making an equally strong impact in Beijing.”