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‘Europe Day’: Reviewing Europe’s environmental milestones

Europe Day

The European Union celebrates ‘Europe Day’ on 9 May, and to mark the occasion we will look back at some of its key moments. The European Union is working to improve a wide range of areas, but we will focus on those that have been a turning point in the environment and its conservation.

That’s because its iconic environmental programme, LIFE, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. So on this ‘Europe Day’ 2022 we look back at fifteen of the most significant environmental political and social milestones of recent years.


1- The LIFE Programme enters into force in 1992, marking a turning point as it is the only EU financial instrument dedicated exclusively to the environment and climate action.

2- The Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit is held. In addition, Agenda 21, the concept of sustainable development as we know it today (linking environmental, economic and social factors), and the famous saying “from global to local” began.

3- 1992 is also the year in which countries around the world signed an international treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which became the main international treaty to combat climate change.

4- The Maastricht Treaty gave environmental action the character of policy, as it includes explicit references. According to Article 6, all EU policies and activities shall integrate environmental protection.


5- The European Environment Agency is created by EEC Regulation 1210/1990. This new body is responsible for providing information on the environment to all types of social actors and for helping to monitor environmental action in the EU.


6- The Kyoto Protocol commits industrialised countries to limit and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, by agreed individual targets. After ratification, it entered into force in 2005. To respect this commitment, the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP) was launched in 2000.

7- The Treaty of Amsterdam also reinforced the principle of Sustainable Development in the Treaty on European Union in 1997. It came into force in 1999, when it became mandatory to integrate environmental protection into all EU policies, covering areas such as transport, agriculture and regional policy.

The Kyoto Protocol marked an important turning point for the environment.


8- In a further step towards information transparency, the Aarhus Convention was signed. It focused on access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters, as well as the Community legislation derived from it. It entered into force in 2001 and was a very important milestone for the LIFE programme and civil society participation.


9- The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is launched to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through an economic incentive scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


10- The Copenhagen Summit is a milestone in civil society participation, but it is disappointing because of the vagueness of its proposals and objectives.


11- The EU adopts its 2030 climate and energy package, which includes a target to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990.


12- The European Parliament endorses a new global climate treaty, the Paris Agreement (to enter into force in November 2016). 195 countries commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees above the pre-industrial level.

The Paris Agreement was signed by 195 countries, a success in terms of accession.


13 – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is in its sixth assessment cycle and is preparing a report for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2022. The goal remains to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 °C.


14- In December 2019, the European Commission launched the European Green Deal to focus EU policy efforts on making Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050.


15- The LIFE Programme celebrates its 30th anniversary on 21 May. During its three decades of environmental commitment, it has successfully structured its work into four sub-programmes: nature and biodiversity; circular economy and quality of life; climate change migration and adaptation; and clean energy transition.  In addition, it has helped co-finance more than 5,500 projects and in its 2021-2027 edition has seen its budget increase by almost 60%, a sign of the priority importance being given to the environment.