United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Global  Environment Outlook-1 - The Web version

Chapter 3: Policy Responses and Directions

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Europe and CIS Countries

National Initiatives

The multitude and magnitude of national and local policy responses to environmental problems in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) preclude a comprehensive compilation and overview in this report. But there are some distinct subregional trends.

Awareness of the extent of and impacts of human activity on the environment developed unevenly across Europe after the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. Most west European countries soon pursued strategies to tackle environmental problems, but these issues were given little priority elsewhere in the region until the end of the 1980s (EEA, 1995). Since then, wide subregional differences have emerged among the countries with economies in transition. In Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Slovak Republic, the desire to join the European Union (EU) acts as a powerful impetus for environmental improvement, since the Union's strict environmental standards will have to be met first. On the other hand, many CIS countries, particularly the Asian Republics, still face unprecedented environmental problems

In the EU, environmental legislation now affects everyone's life, and environmental considerations have penetrated every sector of society and governance structure. Countries in this part of the region have a range of national and local programmes, legislation, and institutional arrangements to address environmental concerns and to implement Agenda 21. Several groups of industrial companies have adopted responsible care programmes. There is also emphasis on capacity building, interdepartmental co-operation, integrated approaches to problem solving, and compliance and enforcement of environmental legislation. Box 3.11 describes the situation for the former German Democratic Republic (GDR).

In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), while economic restructuring offers the key to solving many environmental problems, environmental legislation needs further development and harmonization to be effective. Proper enforcement of existing legislation and standards and of appropriate economic instruments also constitutes a major obstacle to environmental improvement. Box 3.12 describes a modelling exercise on the impact of introducing cleaner production technologies on atmospheric pollutant levels in the CEE region.

Comprehensive Environmental Funds have become an increasingly important interim means of financing environmental expenditures in many CEE countries. In Poland and the Czech Republic, for example, such funds have become quite substantial, with annual budgets of US$100-300 million. (See Table 3.1). Environmental funds derive revenues mainly from pollution charges and taxes. These are set aside for environmental purposes only and cannot be used for the general Government budget. The revenues provide financial assistance to the private or public sector for investments and other projects designed to achieve environmental objectives (OECD, 1995). This contrasts strongly with the situation in the former Soviet Union, where, in terms of per capita gross domestic product, only negligible amounts are being spent on the environment.

National State of the Environment reporting is done throughout the region, often on a regular basis. Since 1990, at least 15 new national State of the Environment reports have been published (UNEP/ DEIA, 1996).

Box 3.11.

Environmental Management in Germany Since Reunification

German unity represented an unprecedented challenge for environmental management in Germany. Four decades of mismanagement of the environment and nature in the former GDR left behind a pollution legacy in many places: landscapes devastated by lignite mining; a highly ineffective waste disposal sector; an agricultural sector characterized by high levels of fertilizer and pesticide use; wasteful land use and contaminated sites left by the manufacturing and mining industries.

The environmental situation in the newly created federal states (Länder) on the territory of the former GDR has substantially improved since reunification. In particular, a host of emergency measures have helped protect the people living in the most affected areas from immediate health hazards. Inputs of pollutants into soil, water, and air have decreased considerably.

The guiding principle behind the Federal Government's ecological cleanup and development strategy has been, and continues to be, not only the restoration and safeguarding of a sound environment, but also the role of sound environmental management within integrated policies designed to make eastern Germany attractive for business investors. This strategy centres around the goal of reconciling improvement of the environment-in particular by removing the two major barriers to investment, a serious pollution legacy and an inadequate infrastructure with economic development.

In December 1992 the Federal Government and the eastern German Länder signed an Administrative Agreement to cover the financing of contaminated site rehabilitation. Annual funds of DM 1 billion have been earmarked for a period of ten years for the so-called "site projects." In addition, 23 large projects for contaminated site rehabilitation, costing approximately DM 6 billion, have been set up. The Federal Government and the new Länderare defraying 75 and 25 per cent of the cost, respectively. These large projects include sites used by the chemical, shipbuilding and steel industries as well as by the potassium mining industry.

Another core element of the Administrative Agreement is the cleanup of eastern German lignite mining districts. Around DM 7.5 billion have been earmarked for the period 1993-97, making this the largest single environmental project in Germany. These cleanup measures have had a favourable impact on the employment situation as many contracts have been awarded to small- and medium-sized firms, helping to secure some 3,450 jobs in these firms.

Favourable results have been achieved, particularly in the areas of wastewater treatment and waste disposal. Between 1990 and 1995, some 550 sewage plants were built or modernized in the new Länder. In addition a large number of illegal waste dumps were closed down, and the construction of waste treatment and recycling installations got off to a speedy start. The process of reorganization within the waste management sector has seen substantial progress as a result of local authorities setting up high-performing cooperatives. The number of landfill sites in operation fell from 11,120 in 1990 to 274 in 1994.

Setting up a modern environmental protection infrastructure requires an enormous volume of investment. According to expert estimates, the building or modernization of wastewater treatment installations in eastern Germany alone will require investment amounting to DM 100 billion over the next 10 to 15 years; a similar volume of investment is likely to be required for the building of new landfill sites for wastes from human settlements and toxic wastes. An increased involvement of the private sector in the future may not only help accelerate the building process but also bring a reduction in costs as a result of an increase in competition, thus helping to keep waste disposal charges in check.


Information supplied by The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Division G II 4. (Cooperation with Developing Countries and with UN bodies).

Box 3.12.

Getting the Priorities Right: Investing in Pollution Control in Central and Eastern Europe

In 1990, the energy intensity of economies in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) was estimated to be about 3 times higher than in western Europe; emissions of NOxand SO2were estimated at more than 4 times higher; and emissions of particulates, cadmium, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were estimated considerably higher per unit of GDP.

Within the framework of the European Action Plan for Central and Eastern Europe a study was conducted, jointly by the World Bank, RIVM, and Resources for the Future, on the impact of introducing different levels of cleaner production technologies on atmospheric pollutant levels in the CEE region. The following scenarios were analysed:

  • Base Case-only new installations in CEE are equipped with current Western European technology.
  • Accelerated Substitution-old as well as new installations in CEE are equipped with current Western European technologies by 2010 and fuel is switched from coal to gas.
  • BAT Policy-old and new installations in CEE are equipped with the best available technology (BAT). Only gas and non-fossil fuels are used.
  • Worst Case-old equipment remains operational and no switch is made from coal to gas.

Table 1 gives the results of the analysis, showing average reductions in emissions in CEE countries compared to 1990.

The analysis shows that retrofitting (or replacement) of the old capital stock (installations) could reduce emissions to a level that is sufficient to meet most environmental quality goals and standards such as the WHO standard for particulate matter and sulphur, the acidification targets in the framework of UN-ECE and the goals for greenhouse gases of IPCC.

In the Base Case scenario, investments are assumed to be US$175 billion per year. Accelerated substitution would bring the sulphur dioxide emissions down to acceptable levels. This would require an additional US$50 billion per year, raising the total to US$225 billion (60 per cent in Eastern Europe; 15 per cent in Central Europe and 25 per cent in the Balkan region). However, the worst pollution from the point of view of human health can be reduced by addressing local sources of sulphur dioxide, at about 10 per cent of the additional investment level (US$5 billion per year). This is an obvious starting point.

Source: RIVM. 1993. Scenarios for Economy and Environment in Central and Eastern Europe.Document prepared for the World Bank in the framework of the Environmental Action Plan of Central and Eastern Europe. National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Bilthoven, the Netherlands.

Projected Reductions in Emissions in Central and Eastern European Countries with Varying Levels of Cleaner Production Technologies

Per cent Reduction from 1990 to 2010
Base Accelerated Best Avaialbe Worst
Case Substitution Technology Policy Case
Carbon Dioxide 25 55 65 5
Sulphur dioxide 60 95 98 30
Nitrogen oxides 55 85 90 35
Volatile organic compounds 35 60 75 25
Particulate matter 55 97 99 35
Cadmium 15 65 90 2
Landfills (a) 5 50 60 -10
Source: RIVM (1993)
Note: a. Municipal waste

Public participation is generally firmly embedded in environmental policy and decision-making processes at various levels in west European countries. In CEE countries, according to a September 1995 survey, there has been substantial progress by Government officials, citizens, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in understanding the benefits of public participation in environmental matters. The basic groundwork for public participation, such as constitutional rights, environmental protection laws, and specific public participation procedures, has now been laid in most countries. In some CEE countries, however, basic legislative reforms have yet to be carried out in practice. There is still a lack of openness and transparency in decision-making processes, a lack of trust in public authorities, and a lack of participatory transition (REC, 1995a). International organizations are involved with strengthening the capacities of Government environment agencies and NGOs in countries with economies in transition. For instance, 17 CEE countries actively participate in UNEP's Environment and Natural Resource Information Network (ENRIN) programme, designed to strengthen national environment information systems and State of the Environment reporting capabilities.

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