Zero Pollution Action Plan workshop
On the day of the deadline for the public consultation on the Zero Pollution Action Plan (10 February), the European Commission held two separate workshops, one with Member States and one with stakeholders on this topic.
DG Environment detailed their plans for the Zero Pollution ambition announced by the Commission in the EU Green Deal.
They intend to design the Zero Pollution action plan, which will result in a Communication, according to the 4 principles of art.191.2 of the TFEU: precautionary principle, the principle that preventive action should be taken, the principle that environmental damaged should be, as a priority, rectified at the source and the principle that the polluter pays.
This would mean to embrace a real paradigm shift for the EU: from the end-of-pipe treatment of pollution to a proactive and preventive approach: music to our ears!
From the water sector we share this vision and the intention of addressing pollution through a horizontal and integrated approach.
However we expect that the Zero Pollution action plan be translated into a clear plan for actions, meaning that it should not focus only on monitoring and digital tools: in fact the need for additional monitoring should not become an excuse for delaying action against pollution if data is already available.
We expect the Zero Pollution action plan to match the ambition and the political leadership already showed by the Commission is shaping the Farm2Fork objectives and in the action plan of the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability.
In order to succeed some priority actions should be considered:
- Pollutants should be addressed according to a life-cycle approach.
- The costs of environmental pollution caused by products should be internalised in the price (for example mercury-based dental amalgam is cheaper than the alternatives because the environmental costs that it causes are not internalised in the price).
- Stringent cut-off criteria should be applied in the authorisation process of substances: this means that intrinsic properties like mobility are enough to allow for stringent regulation.
- A post-authorisation mechanism is fundamental, so yes, monitoring of pollution is indeed essential. We support the mainstreaming of the mechanism currently established (but not yet used) under the Pesticides Regulation by which the authorisations of active substances that are found in the environment above the Environmental Quality Standards are reviewed.
- Strict regulation can drive innovation in certain industrial sectors, but at the same time the challenges posed by the development of alternatives when replacing polluting substances need to be considered: not always this process results in more sustainable replacements (for instance GenX as successor to PFOA).
The Commission is considering the option of establishing a Stakeholders Platform at EU level: the water sector has strongly supported stakeholders engagement and we think that the creation of an EU Stakeholders Platform is a positive step. All sectors should do their homework taking responsibility and showing leadership because this is a societal issue and we are all in this together.
We already have bilateral discussions with other sectors and we enthusiastically joined the platform 'All Policies for a Healthy Europe' where we also engage with different actors issuing policy recommendations to meet the objective of promoting health and wellbeing for EU citizens.
Concerning the role that innovation and digital solutions may play in supporting the move towards a toxic-free environment EurEau has a positive stance.
It is important to understand however that water services are services of general interest and have to be careful in managing public funding since the investments are on long-term assets. For this reason investments should not be technology driven but result driven and innovations should aim at improving the performance of water services and the quality of service to the water consumers.
Looking forward to the next steps and work together to realise the EU Green Deal!