The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is a management tool designed to help businesses and municipal and city authorities monitor and improve their environmental performance, and integrate sustainable development aims into all policies and measures.
The EURO-EMAS project aimed to: - demonstrate the value of EMAS for European local authorities to improve their environmental performance by 33%. This is of particular importance in the context of the ways in which the new EMAS regulation extends the scope of the original EMAS regulation, to maximise its coverage beyond industrial organisations; - develop and disseminate a conceptual framework together with a set of practical tools ensuring the increased involvement of local authorities in environmental management; - provide support for local authorities in their progress towards a consistent, concerted and co-ordinated approach to the management of European environmental problems; - establish and maintain a EURO-EMAS web site and training infrastructure supporting local authorities in their first steps with EMAS and allowing an exchange of experience and good practice; and - establish a system of ‘peer reviews’ among local authorities to enable the ‘assessment’ of the progress made by local authorities in the implementation of the EMAS process. The partner cities in this project included: Athens, Birmingham, Göteborg, Helsinki, Leipzig, Malmö, Newcastle, Palermo and Stockholm.
It proved difficult to demonstrate the 33% improvement of environmental impact in the participating cities, although case studies are included in the final report from each of the participating cities, illustrating the benefits from participating in the EMAS project. The project also analysed the barriers to progress that tend to be encountered by European local authorities as they implement EMAS, illustrating the range of barriers confronted through case studies. Finally the study provided techniques and advice for overcoming barriers to progress, with particular reference to case studies of good practice. The peer review system proved to be a useful tool in the implementation of EMAS in local authorities, and the training web and material resulting from the project should be of benefit to local authorities throughout Europe wishing to implement EMAS. To deliver the objectives, the project was organised as five Tasks (plus a Dissemination Task and a Management Task). The key aims and features of each Task were as follows: - Task 1: Launch Seminar: This was the first management meeting between partners and it aimed to set out the definitive division of tasks, set deadlines and confirm reporting requirements. It was also to serve as an in-depth briefing to the project, giving an overview of the experiences so far and presenting the first batch of support material to the partner cities in their own language. The partner cities commenced the establishment of an informal network at this seminar that took place in February 1999. The launch seminar did not succeed in getting the partners to own the project nor to share their own experiences, nor was support material prepared, as it was felt that existing material was inadequate and therefore not worth translating. It was felt that the launch seminar failed to achieve all its objectives - Task 2: Preparation and Analysis of Support Material and Initiation of Local EMAS process. This task aimed to prepare and publish a comprehensive set of Europe wide applicable support documents based on the existing material developed by IdeA (formerly the Local Government Management Board), and initiate the local EMAS process in a department or unit of the local administration. The IdeA material was found to be deficient so was not translated; the deficiencies were highlighted and addressed in English. A scoping study was also implemented to set the baseline and track the implementation process in each of the partner cities. - Task 3: Development of Training Material and Initiation of Training Process. The focus of this task was to establish how to assess and help partners implement EMAS. This was done largely through the testing of the ‘peer review’ system as an alternative to formal external validation by an accreditation body. A training package for participating cities was developed. The peer review system is based on the system used by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to assess the progress being made by Member States towards sustainable development. - Task 4: European EURO-EMAS Good Practice Training Web. A pan European EMAS Good Practice Training Web was established. The content of the web was not as useful and relevant as had been anticipated at the outset of the project. Further improvement and development of the web followed resulting in the production of a European manual on the use of EMAS in Local Authorities. - Task 5: Peer Reviews – Validation of Environmental Statements. The objective of this task was for participating cities to obtain an independent assessment of their progress in implementing EMAS. The ‘assessor’s’ task was to use the training received as part of the project and combine it with knowledge and experience of the local administration in the validation of the environmental statement. In particular, the assessor was to determine the progress made towards the achievement of the 33% improvement of environmental impact for the unit / department involved in EMAS. Although participating cities have benefited from the project, it has generally proven difficult to monitor and measure the 33% improvement. Dissemination Dissemination activities included: production of promotional leaflets for all partner cities in their own language and in English; letters written in December 2000 to all relevant European and national umbrella organisations for local authorities informing them of the project and asking if they could make their members aware of the project; presentations on the Euro-EMAS project at 12 conferences / workshops which include a mixture of national and European events; 5 newsletters produced in both English and French (available on the web http://euronet.uwe.ac.uk/emas/main.htm) The final seminar took place on the 11/10/2001; the low turn out (30 out of 72) and the lack of debate and discussion during the ‘question and debate slots’ raise the question of how useful the final seminar was as part of the dissemination process.