The roles and tasks of environmental agencies in Europe


  • David Egilson



The paper describes the outcome of a survey conducted among heads of environmental protection agencies (EPAs) throughout Europe. Around 70-80% of the domestic environmental legislation in Europe is decided at EU level. The laws decided at EU level apply either directly or are transposed into national legislation by a decision of the national parliaments. It is usually the task of an EPA to monitor and oversee the implementation of the legislation. The majority of the EPAs regard themselves as "quasi-independent" i.e. independent agencies with strong ties to, and cooperation with, ministries up on which they are dependent financially. Around a quarter of EPAs are ministerial departments. There is no noticeable correlation between demographic properties and the administrative structure of the EPAs. The active level of governance, with some noticeable exceptions, is on a national level. Most EPAs have policy advice and contribution to the knowledge base (research, monitoring, data gathering and assessment) as their main tasks. A significant number of EPAs are also tasked with regulatory functions, but in other instances these important functions are carried out within other government entities. Their main field of work as regards pollution prevention is air, freshwater and waste. EPAs also deal substantively with climate change and soil. Energy, agriculture and health are also covered, albeit not on a major level. Environmental communication is a major task for most EPAs. Virtually all of them deal with environmental indicators, assessment reports and provision of information to governments and the general public. Future environmental policy needs to address the fact that present lifestyles, resources and land use seem to put substantial pressure on the environment. EPAs will have increased role therein as the managers of the knowledge base, the communicators of environmental knowledge and brokers for sustainable resource use. The EPA Network has established itself as an important part of the environment policy loop in Europe due to its cooperation and practical knowledge from domestic implementation of European environment policy and legislation.

Author Biography

David Egilson

Secretary of the EPA Network 2007 - 2011.




How to Cite

Egilson, D. (2012). The roles and tasks of environmental agencies in Europe. Icelandic Review of Politics & Administration, 8(1).



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