The concept of environmental technology includes both low and high tech applications as well as skills and know how, such as process and risk management. The Commission notes that relatively modest adaptations in industrial processes by means of piping, screens, filters, or tanks can be just as important, and more accessible, as high tech applications.
Economic barriers are consistently a problem unless true environmental costs are taken into account, the Commission observed. "Poor access to finance coupled with long investment cycles as well as poor dissemination of new technologies are also issues."
Technical barriers show the need for targeted and more effective research efforts, the Commission said. The entry of any particular technology into the market is slowed down by organizational barriers, and a lack of awareness and skills.
Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin (Photo courtesy European Commission)
Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said, "Without Europe's pioneering research, the existence of the environmental innovations we enjoy today could be in question. To ensure that we further benefit from the economic, social and environmental gains inherent in these technologies, it is vital that we invest in this area of research. The consultation and the Action Plan should foster the take-up of clean technological applications and production processes."
During its meeting on March 20 and 21, the European Council stressed the importance of technology in meeting the EU's sustainability goals. New technologies are a way to achieve environmental improvements, competitiveness and growth at the same time, the ministers noted.
Environmental technologies represent a growing market at both EU and world levels. The Commission says that the overall European expenditure on cleaner technologies and pollution management has risen by five percent each year since 1994.
The private sector is playing an increasingly important role in the environmental technologies market. The EU's direct employment in eco-industries amounted to 1.6 million jobs in 1999. Total direct employment resulting from pollution management and cleaner technologies has risen by around 500,000 jobs since 1994.
The Commission contributes financially to the development of new environment friendly technologies. With a budget of over €1.1 billion (US$1.176 billion ) within the 5th EU Research Framework Programme 1998-2002, the Commission has supported more than 1,000 industrial technologies and materials projects.
Over the next four years, within the 6th EU Research Framework Programme, a total of € 3.42 billion (US$3.65 billion) will be devoted to industrial technologies and materials projects, with a key role for environmental technologies. Applications include nanotechnologies and sustainable transport.
Stakeholder responses are invited by May 15 to: European Commission, Environmental Technology Consultation, email: email@example.com