Articles

The first regional assessment report of the Horizon 2020 Initiative

on 05 March 2014.

As part of the Review and Monitoring component of the Horizon 2020 Initiative and the setting-up of a regular Horizon 2020 reporting mechanism, the European Environment Agency (EEA), together with the ENP South partner countries, are developing the first regional assessment report. This is done in close cooperation with UNEP/MAP (Barcelona Convention), the Capacity Building component of Horizon 2020 (CB/MEP), the European Investment Bank and the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean.

This assessment report, as called for by the Horizon 2020 Cairo road-map, focuses on the three Horizon 2020 priority areas: wastewater, municipal waste and industrial emissions; accordingly, the report is based on a selection of six thematic indicators calculated from data and information reported by the ENP South partner countries – an activity that was extensively supported under the ENPI-SEIS project. Following important streamlining efforts with existing data flows and network infrastructures in the region (e.g. MEDPOL), the data flows for the key Horizon 2020 indicators are progressively established and an official reporting process is now in place in seven partner countries - the datasets currently shared are available under the Mediterranean Data Repository in Reportnet (http://mdr.eionet.europa.eu/).

To complement the regional assessment and allow a comparative performance while identifying learning outcomes, partner countries have been preparing and sharing their national analysis. Seven countries already provided their contributions that are now under processing and editing. 

The following key messages can be drawn from the reported data and information:

· Steady progress in access to improved sanitation services has been achieved since 2003 in all the ENP South countries. In 2011, 92 % of the population in the ENP South region had access to improved sanitation as compared to of 87.5 % in 2003, in large part made possible by investments from regional and international cooperation. But emergence of “pockets” of urban poverty and inequities to services accessibility between urban and rural areas remains. However, when compared to 2003, this gap has been narrowing down in most countries over the time period 2003-2011.

· The progress in municipal wastewater management is more difficult to assess as the data available do not provide sound evidence and trends at the regional level. In general terms, an increase in the volume of wastewater collected and treated is observed in those countries for which data is available. Information on the type and efficiency of wastewater treatment at the regional scale is largely missing.

· Knowledge on water resource management is increasing in the region but reporting and monitoring still needs to be improved, in particular for wastewater management. Although local improvements have been observed and reported in the country assessment, it is difficult to assess the progress at the regional scale. Even where reasonable treatment facilities exist, poor maintenance and operation often result in failure to meet design effluent levels and thus in protecting the receiving environment.

· Municipal solid waste generation (MSW) in the ENP South countries continues to grow (+15 % over the last 10 years) mostly due to population and economic growth. Twice as much municipal solid waste is currently generated in Europe as in ENP South countries. Whilst the situation varies widely from one country and more particularly one local area to the next, it appears that average municipal solid waste production in the EU 27 stands at around 520 kg/per capita/year compared to 270 kg/per capita/year for the ENP South countries. Organic waste represents the biggest share of MSW, but following changes in consumption patterns, largely as a result of importation of manufactured goods, the proportion of biodegradable waste decreases as the share of plastics and other synthetic material increases. The collection of MSW is a significant issue in most ENP South countries and despite important improvement in the last decade, few of them succeed in reaching full waste collection coverage, especially in rural areas (collection rate is around 76%). The management of MSW relies almost exclusively on dumps; 58% of the collected waste is disposed in open dumps and 31% in sanitary landfills, while less than 10% of the collected volume is recycled or composted. However, countries have reported an increasing number of initiatives in setting up recycling streams.

· The knowledge of the complexity of the processes related to the waste management cycle has been strongly improved in the ENP South countries although there are many gaps to be filled, in particular as regards the production of reliable data and the setting-up of a regular monitoring of waste streams.

· Industrial emissions and nutrients have been assessed using the data and information already reported by the countries to the MEDPOL programme (2003 and 2008 data). This analysis confirmed that pressures from land-based sources remain high, with the production of energy, manufacture of refined petroleum products, treatment of urban wastewater, food packing, manufacture of cement and metals being the key sectors to focus attention on. The existence of only two reporting years does not allow for drawing precise conclusions, highlighting the importance for yearly reporting of pollutant loads. Reporting National Budgets of pollutants every year and the establishment of Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) by the countries is a step in the right direction of not only establishing a sustainable data flow for reporting purposes but also in following up the trends in pollution reduction and measuring the effectiveness of measures taken. Most national laws and legislations support monitoring; however, there is a lack of systematic implementation of monitoring activities.

While sharing the information and key indicators between countries and within the countries is one of the positive ways to recognize how to improve the quality of this information, further developments are necessary. The use of harmonised methods, maintenance of infrastructure, data acquisition and reporting, require assistance in terms of capacity building and organised sharing of expertise. The lack of systematic implementation of monitoring activities at national and local level, clear targets and compliance objectives throughout the data and information management chain was identified as crucial.

The Horizon 2020 assessment report is under finalisation and will be presented at the Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Environment and Climate Change scheduled to be held on 13 May 2014 in Athens, Greece.