€55bn: The Cost of Not Implementing Environmental Law

16th April 2019

A new report, published by the European Commission’s Directorate General for the Environment, estimates that the cost to EU Member States of not implementing environmental law in 2018 was around €55 billion.

This is the result of Member States not fully achieving the targets set out by EU environmental legislations across seven policy areas: air, nature and biodiversity, water, waste, chemicals, industrial emissions and major accident hazards, and horizontal instruments.

Not implementing EU environmental law results in negative outcomes across all aspects of society, ranging from reduced biodiversity and increased illness from air and noise pollution to unrealised market opportunities. The size of the implementation gaps was calculated using the difference between estimates of the 2018 environmental status in each policy area and the respective environmental targets.

The aim of the report was to provide an up-to-date estimate of the costs and foregone benefits from not fully achieving the environmental targets specified in the EU legislation. A benefit of providing an estimate for 2018 is that this year is covered by the second round of the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) reports (also published on 5 April), a tool launched by the European Commission to improve implementation of EU environmental law and policy. Hence, the new study was able to both benefit from and feed into the EIR process.

We produced the study alongside global consultancy COWI, who led  five of the seven areas, while we contributed our expertise on waste and industrial emissions.

Our lead author, Tanzir Chowdhury, said:

“It is crucial to understand the effects failing to meet environmental targets has on the EU economy. This report clearly shows how important it is to ensure that Member States are complying with environmental legislation: meeting the targets will result in stronger economies, better public health, and, of course, a diverse natural environment for our children to enjoy well into the future.”

COWI’s lead author and overall project leader, Peter G. Madsen, said:

“An estimate of the costs to the society of not fully achieving the environmental targets specified in the EU legislation is obviously connected with uncertainty. To encourage that the estimate is widely accepted among stakeholders, we have applied a transparent estimation method. We are thus positive to have provided a quality evidence base for policy making that also can be updated in the future.”

Picture courtesy of Jim Roberts, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.