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The European Union applies some of the most advanced environmental standards in the world. The environment policy of the EU helps turning the economy green and protecting nature, human health and the quality of life of people who live in the European Union.

The European environment policy rests on the principles of precaution, prevention and rectifying pollution at source, and on the "polluter pays" principle. Multiannual environmental action programmes set the framework for future action in all areas of environment policy. They are embedded in horizontal strategies and taken into account in international environmental negotiations. Last but not least, implementation is crucial.

The "polluter pays" principle is implemented by the Environmental Liability Directive (ELD), which aims to prevent or otherwise remedy environmental damage (namely, to protected species and to natural habitats, water and soil). 

The EU’s newest growth strategy in the field of economic growth, the Europe 2020 Strategy sets inter alia a headline target for climate and energy. It aims at shaping "smart, inclusive and sustainable growth". Under its umbrella, the "flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe" points the way towards sustainable growth and supports a shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy.

Previous models and the current model of using resources have led to high levels of pollution, degradation of environment and exhaustion of natural resources. The Resource Efficiency Roadmap should help change this trend by defining the way we could turn the EU economy into a sustainable economy by 2050. The EU policy on waste has a long history and it has traditionally focused on a greener management of waste. The future agenda on an efficient use of resources will include a revision of the key-objectives established by the EU legislation for waste.

As a global player, the EU plays an important role in international actions that promote sustainable development in the whole world.
The current EU environment policy (valid until 2020) is based on the 7th environmental action programme for which both EU institutions, and national governments are liable.