The European Union’s economy lost £54.7bn last year due to member states’ failures to implement environmental laws, according to a European Commission report.
The report explored the impact on seven policy areas, air and noise, nature and biodiversity, water, waste, chemicals, industrial emissions and major accident hazards, and horizontal instruments.
It revealed that clean air legislation has proven hardest for member states to implement so far, with many countries still struggling with high emission levels.
‘The effectiveness of EU environmental law depends on its implementation at member state, regional and local levels,’ reads the report, published by the European Commission’s Directorate General for the Environment.
‘Implementation gaps are costly to society and materialise in various forms, such as reduced amenity values of surface waters with poor ecologic quality, and increased illness due to air and noise pollution.’
Air pollution and high noise levels were estimated to have cost the bloc €24.6bn in 2018, largely due to healthcare costs and days missed of work and education.
Nature and biodiversity (€13.1bn) proved to be the policy area with the second most costly gap in its implementation, while chemicals had the lowest cost of €0.
The report was published on the same day as the Commission’s second Environmental Implementation Review (EIR), which aims to monitor the progress that EU member states make in implementing environmental laws.
The EIR looks to identify the causes of implementation gaps and highlight potential areas of improvement.
Karmenu Vella, European commissioner for environment, fisheries and maritime affairs, said: ‘Making sure that the air, water and waste management our citizens enjoy are of best quality and our natural capital is protected is our priority.
‘The Environmental Implementation Review is there to help member states to make that happen by providing them with the information and the tools they need.’
The latest review identified several factors which could help member states improve their environmental implementation, including the integration of environmental objectives with other policy goals, better public administration and increased transparency.
One tool the EIR has introduced to help with this is a Peer-to-Peer programme which aims to help member states share experience and best practice, thereby improving their environmental performance.