The Constitution does not modify the competences and the legal basis for action of the EU in the field of environmental policy, but it re-confirms and strengthens the status of environmental protection and sustainable development within the entire framework of the internal and external action of the Union.
With respect to the general objectives of the Union, Article I-3 reads as follows: "The Union shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. (...)"
In Article I-14 the environment is mentioned as one of the main areas where the Union shares its competence with the Member States (cf. "Union competences").
The Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is enshrined as the legally binding Part II in the Constitution, includes an article on the protection of the environment, which is to be considered as a "principle" by the Union (cf. "Fundamental Rights"). This Article II-97 reads as follows: "A high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment must be integrated into the policies of the Union and ensured in accordance with the principle of sustainable development."
The former horizontal provision with respect to the environment in Article 6 of the EC Treaty is included in the Constitution as Article III-119: "Environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the policies and activities referred to in this Part, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development."
The specific policy provisions and the legal basis relating to the environment - at present Article 174-176 of the EC Treaty - are incorporated without any substantive amendments in the Constitution as Articles III-233 and III-234, specify explicitly the applicable legal instruments (European laws and framework laws) in accordance with the new typology. Laws relating to the environment are in principle adopted under the ordinary legal procedure (qualified majority in the Council and co-decision of the European Parliament). The following EU environmental measures are adopted unanimously after consulting the European Parliament. This procedure was incorporated without any alterations from the EC Treaty.
- provisions primarily of a fiscal nature;
- measures affecting:
- town and country planning;
- quantitative management of water resources or affecting, directly or indirectly, the availability of those resources;
- land use, with the exception of waste management;
- measures significantly affecting a Member State's choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply.
The Constitution introduces for the first time a specific legal basis for the EU energy policy (Article III-256). One of the explicit objectives of this policy is to "promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy".
Among the objectives for the Union's entire external action the Constitution specifies in Article III-292:
- "to foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty;"
- "to help develop international measures to preserve and improve the quality of the environment and the sustainable management of global natural resources, in order to ensure sustainable development;".