The Environment Council (ENV) is responsible for EU environment policy, including environmental protection, prudent use of resources and the protection of human health. It also deals with international environmental issues, especially in the area of climate change. The Council is responsible for the adoption of ambitious environmental legislation that protects natural habitats, keeps air and water clean, ensures proper waste disposal, improves knowledge about toxic chemicals and helps businesses move towards a sustainable economy.
It also makes sure that environmental aspects are properly integrated into other EU policies, such as industry, agriculture, transport, energy and services.
At international level, the EU and its member states strive to ensure that the EU's environmental standards are reflected in international environmental and climate change agreements. In this regard, the Council is responsible for preparing EU positions for international conferences and climate change negotiations.
The objective of sustainable development that ensures a high level of protection and improvement of environmental quality is inscribed as one of the EU's overall objectives in the Lisbon Treaty.
Over the past 25 years, environmental legislation in the EU has evolved from focussing on traditional environmental problems like air pollution, sewage and waste to nature conservation and threats to human health. One example of this development is the REACH regulation, which came into force in 2007 and which regulates companies' use of chemicals. In recent years, a number of significant actions to combat global warming have dominated the environmental policy of the EU, for example the aim to reduce CO2 emissions and to achieve a higher level of energy efficiency.
Over recent years, the environment policy focused on important measures against climate change, like reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Other important issues are the regulation relating to the release on the market of genetically modified food (GMO) or reducing plastic bags.