The Treaty of Lisbon
Since 2004, the number of EU member countries has grown from 15 to 28 through two waves of "enlargement," as the process is called. To address needed reforms for the larger group and current times, The Lisbon Treaty was signed by all EU Member States on 13 December 2007.
This important treaty "modernizes" some of the ground rules for EU countries working together, becuase "The European Union (EU) of 27 members [had] been operating with rules designed for an EU of 15 Member States." At the time the treaty was signed "there [was] increasing support for the EU to work together on issues that [affected all countries], such as climate change, energy security, and international terrorism." The Lisbon treaty is designed to "lead to greater efficiency in the decision making process" when tackling problems that impact multiple EU countries. (All quotes are from "Explaining the Treaty of Lisbon," which I might add provides an excellent overview of the treaty if you are interested in learning more). The Treaty went into effect on 1 December 2009.
The Treaty opened the door for many new opportunities for the EU to work together, including areas related to the environment and energy.
The Treaty of Lisbon states that one of the Union’s objectives is to work for the sustainable development of Europe based, in particular, on a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. Although the idea of sustainable development was included in the existing treaties, the Treaty of Lisbon reinforces and better defines this objective. Sustainable development is also affirmed as one of the fundamental objectives of the Union in its relations with the wider world.
The environment is one of the spheres of competence shared between the Union and the Member States...When the Union intervenes in this area, it must contribute to the pursuit of clear objectives: preserving, protecting, and improving the quality of the environment; protecting human health; promoting prudent and rational utilization of natural resources; promoting measures at the international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems.
A reference to the need to combat climate change in measures at the international level has also been added. This is the first time that climate change is explicitly referred to in the treaties.
Energy is not an EU policy area in the treaties in its own right. The new energy policy aims to ensure the functioning of the energy market, security of supply, the promotion of energy efficiency and energy saving, the promotion of the development of new and renewable forms of energy, and the promotion of the interconnection of energy networks.
The Treaty also contains "a specific chapter on energy which defines the key competencies and the overall objectives of energy policy: the functioning of energy markets, security of supply, energy efficiency and savings, the development of new and renewable forms of energy and the interconnection of energy networks. For the first time there is a principle of solidarity, ensuring that if one country faces severe difficulties in the supply of energy, other Member States will help keep the country supplied." (Europa, Policies for a better life, retrieved October 2011)
To Read NowImportant EU policies and programs related to energy and the environment:
- EU-ETS The EU Emissions Trading System operates by the allocation and trading of greenhouse gas emissions allowances throughout the EU - one allowance represents one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent. From the European Commission Climate Change, read European Union Emissions Trading System
- 20-20-20 From the European Commission Climate Action, read 2020 climate & energy package.
- 2030 climate & energy framework from the European Commission Climate Action, read the summary of the framework.
- 2050 low-carbon economy from the European Commission Climate Action, read the summary of the low-carbon economy.
- The SET-Plan (Strategic Energy Technology Plan) From the European Commission, read Overview, Mission, and What is the SET-Plan?
- Progress made in cutting emissions from the European Commission Climate Action. Read the summary of progress toward cutting emissions.
- The Paris Agreement is a landmark agreement from December 2016. Read summaries of the Paris Agreement from the European Commission on Climate Action and the BBC News Network.