Table of Contents
Quotation: Stratos Arampatzis (2013): Introduction to the environmental Impact Area Land use: http://beta.liaise-toolbox.eu/node/1214
With on average 117.5 people living on each of the EU's 3 million square kilometres, it is easy to see why land use planning and management is such an important environmental issue for the Union.
Land is being used for infrastructure, housing, transport, production and recreation. The use of land is closely interlinked with social, environmental and economic well-being. Land use can therefore impose major impacts on the environment. These can be direct, such as the destruction or fragmentation of natural habitats and landscapes, the complete loss of soil functions and constraints of regeneration capabilities of groundwater. Or they may be indirect, such as increasing the amount of traffic on our roads leading to more congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gases.
Agriculture is the largest human land use, with 12 percent of global land surface under permanent cultivation at present. At the same time agricultural land is the largest land cover category taken by urban and other artificial land development. Thus, the share of agriculture in overall land-use has continuously declined. This decline poses two major problems: First, intensive agriculture is concentrated in specific areas, leading to great discharges of pesticides and fertilisers. Second, intensification and the abandonment of extensive farming leads to a loss of landscapes with rich biodiversity.
As global population and the per capita consumption of land based goods and services continue to grow, sustainable land use planning is of vital importance. Careful planning needs to take into account the need for economic development of different sectors’ stakeholders, societal aspects of people living on and from the land as well as environmental consideration and provision of ecosystem goods and services.
Land use planning and management decisions are usually made at local or regional level. However, the European Commission has a role to play in ensuring Member States take environmental concerns into account when putting together their land use development plans.
The EU adopted “Europe 2020” in June 2010. This strategy for sustainable growth and job emphasizes the need to increase competiveness by stimulating innovation and green growth. Sustainable growth will be supported by a flagship initiative for a resource efficient Europe that emphasizes the decoupling of economic growth from resource and energy use by reducing the resource intensity of what we use and consume.
For more information on the treaty provisions and relevant policies adopted by the community, please refer http://europa.eu/pol/env/index_en.htm
For the strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources please see also the Communication from the Commission of 21 December 2005 - Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources [COM(2005) 670 - not published in the Official Journal] http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/environment/sustainable_development/l28167_en.htm
The European Commission has started the INSPIRE initiative (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) as well as the GMES initative (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). Both iniatives aim at improving information flows between policy-makers and public about land use issues.
The Directive on Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) demands an assessment of environmental impacts at the project level and the Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessement (SEA) requires an assessment of environmental impacts of policies, programs and plans. This shall help to take environmental concerns into account already at the early stages of planning which shall prevent negative environmental impacts from the very beginning.
The Sixth Environmental Action Programme proposes the development of a new Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment. Another step is the introduction of a coordinated policy for the Union's coastal zone regions.
Legal basis for the Commission to act
Land-use decisions generally reflect adopted policy. A good part of this policy originates in the European Union as Directives (e.g. on Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment) which are then implemented through national legislation which transposes their provisions into national law. Other policy originates nationally in addition to those Directives, in some cases through adoption of wider international conventions such as the Covention of Biological Diversity and in some cases through Land Use Planning legislation that is not specifically regulated at EU level.
A land-use strategy of a national or regional government and its assessment of impacts will usually involve consultation with those living and working in the area, as well as government agencies with relevant responsibilities. Land-use decisions are subject to a variety of governance processes and involve many parties who need environmental information on the right scale and in accessible form, making scientists and information suppliers, including the interested public, a part of the process.
Users of land may be directly regulated, or subject to funding conditions, as a result of governmental policy, for example through regulations under the Water Framework Directive or subsidies provided by Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). However, the decisions about what to grow in field or forests, how to manage that growth, or what species to encourage (and harvest) or discourage, are based on many other factors including topography, weather, markets and cultural interests, as well as characteristics of the cultivated, domesticated or wild species concerned.
European Environment Agency on land use
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DC.
Additional DatasetsNo datasets available.
Content for this term
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