By Jörn Kassow and Eun-Kyung Lee

On June 9, 2017, the European Commission (EC) published its Action Plan to Streamline Environmental Reporting (COM(2017) 312), summarising the findings of its review of reporting requirements following the 2015 ‘Better Regulation Initiative.’

As part of this 2015 Initiative, the EC carried out a fitness check focused on assessing environmental reporting and monitoring. While environmental as well as regulatory monitoring and reporting provide essential facts for informed decision-making and implementation review, the EC acknowledges the need to balance the demand for better information with the related costs for Member States and businesses. The estimated cost of reporting obligations — solely for the authorities involved — amounts to approximately €22 million a year.

In its recently published action plan, the EC summarised the findings of its fitness check and outlined a roadmap for action. In summary, the EC found that there is room for improvement, particularly in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, and coherence of reporting obligations. The EC also concluded that the content of environmental reporting could focus more on strategic, quantitative, and regulation-driven information, e.g., by using key indicators to reduce the amount of textual information currently requested.

The roadmap for action highlights the need to:

  1. Obtain the right information, in the right form, at the right time
  2. Streamline the reporting process
  3. Promote active dissemination of environmental information at the European and national level
  4. Exploit other data sources and alternative approaches complementing environmental reporting
  5. Improve coherence and cooperation

The EC intends to reinforce the capacity of the European Environment Agency (EEA) to assist in developing a common, more standardised approach to reporting. Approximately €3.1 million will be budgeted over a three-year pilot phase, enabling the EEA to take the lead in implementing the action to modernise eReporting. This in particular includes the modernisation of Reportnet — the EEA’s technical infrastructure for supporting and improving data information flows — through project ‘Reportnet 2.0.’

Further reforms include:

  1. Developing and testing of tools for data harvesting at the EU level
  2. Promoting the wider use of citizen science to complement environmental reporting
  3. Strengthening cooperation with relevant international organisations to streamline reporting and information management between the EU level and the international level

It remains to be seen how the EC’s action plan is implemented; how effectively environmental reporting is streamlined; and to what extent these measures will alleviate costs for the authorities and businesses concerned. Notwithstanding this, many commentators argue that such action from the EC is long overdue.