The Working Group on ecosystem services consists of representatives from different national and regional advisory bodies which have longstanding experience on issues such as sustainable food production, biodiversity and fresh water.
Through communication and coordination, as well as the combined knowledge, expertise, and resources of its members, the working group is able to address a number of relevant issues with regard to European, national and sub-national policy developments.
The Working Group is currently Chaired by:
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The members of the working group will convene online to discuss the agenda for 2021.
Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of the water needed to meet basic human needs. This will inevitably increase risks in energy production, food security, human health, economic development and poverty reduction, and consequently represents a serious threat to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, both climate change and the human responses to it will add to the existing pressures on water systems and ecosystems.
There are policy initiatives at various levels intended to counter the effects of climate change to our fresh water resources. At the European level, the recent fitness check of the EU Water Framework Directive concluded that the Directive is sufficiently prescriptive with regard to the pressures to be addressed, and yet flexible enough to accommodate emerging challenges such as climate change and water scarcity. Though this might seem like reason for optimism, in reality plenty of challenges remain.
For this reason, the EEAC Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs dedicated an online working session to the challenges of water quantity governance in the context of climate change. In this context, we (A) looked into the options to match the ambitions for greening energy production with those of the Water Framework Directive, (B) discussed how energy neutrality in the water sector can be reached, and (C) considered how opportunities in the NEXUS- approach can be used to improve water quality governance.
Session outcome letter by Jan Verheeke, updated version
Session outcome letter by Jan Verheeke
Water Nexus and Climate Change, by Prof. Dr. Ad de Roo
Energy neutrality in the water sector where are we and what can we do by Bertrand Vallet
Presentation by Claire Baffert (WWF EU) be aware of possible encryption failures
The EU Environment Council discussed the fitness-check of the EU water directives during its session on Thursday, March 5th. To provide the latest information and insights coming from the Council discussion, the EEAC Network’s Working Group on Water organized an online working session a week later, on Thursday March 12th.
This meeting was subsequent to our recent online working session on the fitness-check of the EU water directives. This time we focused on the outcomes and possible consequences of the Environment Council meeting. Hagar Ligtvoet of the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the European Union kindly introduced the outcomes and possible consequences of the Council meeting during our working session.
The Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs met, together with other stakeholders, online to discuss the outcomes and possible consequences of the fitness checks of the EU Water Directives.
Hans Stielstra (European Commission, DG Environment) guided the participants through the fitness check, its outcomes and its possible consequences for the work ahead.
The European Commission launched the fitness check outcomes of the EU Water Directives just before the Holiday Season. In its communique, the European Commission made it clear the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is ‘fit for purpose’ and a critical pillar of the EU’s environmental legislation.
In its statements, the European Commission expressed its expectation that the momentum of the European Green Deal will allow to make a leap forward with regard to the fresh water policies in the EU. The Farm to Fork Strategy and the Zero-Pollution ambition are for example very relevant in this perspective.
The purpose of the online gathering was to develop a clear and shared view of developments ahead and of the activities that we as network and as advisory bodies could undertake.
following this session, an session outcome letter will be drafted.
Outcome letter by Jan Verheeke
Fitness Check of the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive, by Hans Stielstra
The Advisory Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia (CADS) and the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat) hosted the ‘Feeding on Future’ International conference on food systems in Barcelona on 11 October 2019. This conference brought together relevant experts to debate the future of our food systems to deliver inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies. The conference was organized with support of the EEAC Network.
By 2050, the world population will exceed 9.8 billion inhabitants. This growth, the increase in purchasing power of large sections of the population that are in currently developing countries and the change in diet that this may bring about has led the FAO to estimate that there will be a gradual increase in global food demand as high as 60% by 2050. This, alongside the pressure that it may place on increasingly scarce natural resources, the impacts of climate change and the global change in food and agriculture production, has sounded the alarm over a possible world food crisis of vast dimensions.
The United Nations has long been focusing on the reduction of hungry people and by September 2015, through the resolution “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development” they have set the goal to make hunger disappear by 2030.
In this context, many international organisations are providing reflections on the necessary transformation of the food system to face all of these challenges. An example is the report that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented in early August 2019, focusing on the need to transform food production and consumption models.
This debate has reached European institutions and many national and regional governments. In Catalonia, in 2018, CADS issued the “Feeding on Future” report, a reflection on the challenges facing the Catalan food system and proposing recommendations in order to face them. Given the relevance of this issue, the CADS and the Diplocat – Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia – organize the conference “Feeding on Future”, where leading European experts in the field of food security and sustainability presented their analyzes on the food system, the challenges that the current context raises and the proposals of actions to overcome them:
Professor Eeva Furman. Director of the Environmental Policy Centre of the Finnish Environment Institute and Chair of Finland’s Sustainable Development Expert Panel.
Dr Alberto Garrido. Professor of Agricultural Economics and Policy, Vice-Rector for Quality and Efficiency of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and member of European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) Food and Nutrition Security and Agriculture Working Group.
Drs KJ (Krijn) Poppe. Chair of the Independent EC FOOD 2030 Expert Group and Member of the Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli).
Professor Marta G. Rivera-Ferre. Director of the Chair on Agroecology and Food Systems for social transformation at University of Vic and lead author of Rural Areas (AR5) and Food security (SRCCL) chapters of the IPCC.
Mr Peter Schmidt. President of the EESC Sustainable Development Observatory, European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).
In the run-up to its third management cycle, the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) is under review. Public consultation (part of the WFD fitness check) took place through March 2019. In early 2019, the European Commission launched its fifth WFD Implementation Report. These processes shed light on the partial success of the WFD’s implementation. Three issues stand out for the EEAC Network:
- a) Lack of adequate financing;
- b) Limited uptake of the WFD’s economic thinking;
- c) Lack of a paradigm shift to a systemic approach in water policies.
The EEAC Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs organized a round-table session in Brussels on 19 June 2019 to study possible solutions to these issues. A selection of national, subnational and European stakeholders joined the advisory bodies with a view to information-sharing and informed debate.
With regard to investments in water policies, there are no sufficiently clear data on the actual evolution of investments and spending over the past years in relation to the Water Framework Directive. Budgetary constraints were already evident before the existence of the WFD, i.e. at the level of what the WFD now labels ‘basic measures’. There is reason to believe that investments are falling short of need. However, is that the case? Xavier Leflaive (OECD) shared the preliminary findings of the joint European Commission and OECD gap-analysis, entitled Assessing member states’ investment needs and financing capacities for water supply & sanitation. The presentation can be found below.
As for economic thinking, the WFD requires EU Member States to base their water management on cost effectiveness analyses, to implement the principle of cost recovery as well as incentive pricing, and to define exemptions in terms of disproportionality of costs. The incomplete implementation of these principles and instruments put a strain on the implementation of the WFD. The concept of “payment for ecosystem services” could provide a method of revitalizing economic thinking but is not yet used. Andrew Farmer (IEEP) shared his insights on economic thinking in the WFD, focusing on cost and benefits. Andrew Farmer’s presentation can be found below.
A third issue of concern is the shift to a systemic approach. This paradigm shift to a systemic approach, which was claimed to be central to the WFD, seems not to have been fully integrated into the water policies of the Member States. System thinking would result in an approach that is more effective and cost-efficient. However, it can be observed that that the ecosystem thinking incorporated into the WFD has raised important governance concerns. Relevant questions that were addressed during the round table session included: 1) In which concrete situations would a systems approach be relevant and helpful (= bottom up)? 2) What expertise is needed? 3) Which tools? What budgets? 4) Which Member-States / Regions have come up with good solutions? On behalf of Laurence Carvalho (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology), Wim van Gils (Minaraad) presented ‘Solutions for Stressed Out Waters Enhancing Implementation of the WFD’. The presentations and session outcome document can be found below.
Presentation by Xavier Leflaive entitled Assessing member states’ investment needs and financing capacities for water supply & sanitation
Presentation by Andrew Farmer entitled Economic Thinking in the WFD Costs and Benefits
Presentation by Laurence Carvalho entitled Solutions for Stressed Out Waters Enhancing Implementation of the WFD
Session outcome document by Jan Verheeke
EEAC member councils active in the Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs discussed the context and questions of the Water Framework Directive’s public consultation. The session was utilized to update all councils on the progress of the Water Framework Directive, to discuss the (European) state of affairs and to exchange experiences and views from sub-national and national level with regard to water policy (advise).
In order to fulfill the obligation to review the Water Framework Directive (WFD), the European Commission published its evaluation roadmap in October 2017. As part of this evaluation process and in prelude to the review process in 2019, the EEAC Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs dedicated its latest round-table session to the potential explanations of the incomplete success so far of the WFD and the future of the WFD.
Background information The WFD was so different from the previous, standard-oriented, water directives that the WFD was considered to be very innovative at the time of it’s enactment in 2000. The WFD not only defines a number of organizational and technical assignments for Member States but obliges them to direct these measures at the attainment of the “good status” of their territorial water systems. This “good status” was supposed to be met by 2015, but the WFD provided for mechanisms to extend the deadline until 2027. Moreover, Member States were asked to underpin their policies with an economic analysis of the water use in the river basins, and to take account of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services, including environmental and resource costs. In 2012, the Commission published its assessment of the then existing river basin management plans. The conclusion was that the output was acceptable, but that the outcome remained unsatisfactory. Only slightly more than half of the surface waters would reach the “good status” in 2015. Whether this “good status” will finally be reached in 2027 remains still unclear.
How was the workshop conducted? Experts in their field, were invited to share their perspectives, ideas and knowledge during plenary sessions. Together, they focused on A) the potential explanations of the incomplete success of the EU Water Framework Directive so far (with special attention to the subject of economic thinking, systems thinking and reaching ‘good status’). B) what needs to be done to reach the good status and what would be the future of the WFD if this status has not been met by 2027.
EEAC exploratory note: Working on the Water Framework Directive
Working on the Water Framework Directive, Presentation by Jan Verheeke
Session outcome document: The EU Water Framework Directive Results to date and outlook for the future
The Water Framework Directive – in full, the Directive 2000/60/EC, establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy; abridged: the “WFD” – dates from October 23rd, 2000, and was publicized on December 22nd, same year. Article 19.2. WFD states that “the Commission will review this Directive at the latest 19 years after the date of its entry into force”, i.e. in 2019, “and will propose any necessary amendments to it.” In the run-up to this, and in order to re-acquaint with the WFD, the working group Chairman issued a exploratory note on the Water Framework Directive. This exploratory note is meant to be a contribution to this work, as it should bring the EEAC’s to a level playing field concerning their knowledge about the WFD and raise awareness among the EEAC’s that are not yet involved. The EEAC member councils agreed upon the note in December 2017.
Being in the middle of its second management cycle and in the prelude of its review in 2019 the Water Framework Directive still faces considerable challenges. Often insufficient monitoring and deficient analysis of pressures occurs. Programmes of measures are not ambitious enough and the Water Framework Directive intervention logic is not always followed. Furthermore, frequent and non-transparent use of exemptions are made and the integration of further policy domains remain insufficient. Against this challenging background the EEAC Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs dedicated a workshop to these challenges and invited all attendance to start working towards and beyond the Water Framework Directive review of 2019. By organizing this workshop, the EEAC Network continues its work on the Water Framework Directive that has started already in 1995. The workshop brought together a variety of participants from different fields and backgrounds. The invitees included scientists, national and EU experts, and civil society and government representatives and specialists from multiple advisory councils for environment and sustainable development.
The Workshop focused on the origins and evolution of the Water Framework Directive in the member states. Followed by a scientific analysis which outlined the great expectations and the problems of the implementation of the Water Framework Directive. After this analysis, the options in prelude to the 2019 review and for the post 2027 period were discussed.
Origin and evolution of the WFD Perspective of a member state by Veronique van den Langenbergh
The potential contribution of water technology by Dirk Halet
The EU Water Framework Directive From great expectations to... by Nick Voulvoulis