Environment and Climate Change: The most important and challenging EU policy areas

Environment and Climate Change

Environment and climate change is among the most important and challenging EU policy areas because it directly relates to the quality of life of citizens; sustainability is crucial for ensuring future generations’ use and enjoyment of natural resources.

Many environmental challenges are still waiting to be solved; some have even become more acute. Increasing demand for resources has led to increasing degradation and biodiversity loss. The depletion and pollution of water resources pose serious problems; water scarcity could affect one-third of the world population by 2025.

Resources such as water, energy, land, and forests constitute the foundations of any economy, and the livelihood of many people in Turkey and across the world depend on them.

Turkey’s greenhouse gas emissions doubled over the last decade. At the same time, the country is located in one of the regions most vulnerable to the negative impact of climate change. Therefore, in Turkey even more than in other places, timely and ambitious climate action is necessary to achieve a competitive, resource-efficient, and low-carbon economy, and a resilient society.

EU Accession Negotiations

Turkey's accession negotiations on Chapter 27 have been ongoing since December 2009.

The environment represents perhaps the most complex and costly area on the way towards EU accession: full implementation of over 200 pieces of legislation requires around €70 billion worth of investments. This is an area where EU legislation is constantly evolving and represents a moving target.

Despite all the challenges, Turkey has made important progress. However, more needs to be done and the EU is supporting Turkey to adopt the EU acquis, and even more importantly, to ensure its effective implementation, with its pre-accession assistance programme.

Pre-accession assistance programme

The EU is not only encouraging but also supporting Turkey’s efforts to bring its institutions and policies in line with the EU acquis through the pre-accession programme. Since 2002, €6 billion in pre-accession financial assistance has been allocated to Turkey. 15% of this (about €1 billion) has been allocated to the environment sector.

Another almost €650 million in assistance are upcoming through the 2014-2020 Environment and Climate Action programme. This new programme aims to improve environmental protection by addressing the challenges of climate change, environmental management for sustainable development and disaster management, as well as building capacity to manage water, waste, chemicals, air quality and natural resources.

The majority of the pre-accession assistance has been allocated to environmental infrastructure (i.e., water treatment and supply, wastewater collection and treatment, solid waste management, storm water collection and discharge). This is expected to continue in the next cycle of funding.