European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wants to be “big on big things and small on small things” and it doesn’t get much bigger than safeguarding the environment, the world’s life support system.

This year’s annual conference will take a hard look at the roles of ‘better regulation’, sustainability and the rule of law in rising to this challenge.

What the EU and in particular the Commission does in these areas over the next five years matters more than ever before if it is truly serious about a reform agenda fit for the 21st century and capable of tackling the environmental and social challenges both within and outside Europe in a comprehensive and effective manner.

Taking place shortly after the adoption of the global United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and in the run up to the COP21 Climate Change Conference at the end of the year, the conference is a timely forum for discussion. At the same time the Commission’s Better Regulation Agenda has been gathering momentum and its impact on draft proposals for a Circular Economy package and ongoing review of Europe’s flagship conservation policy Natura 2000 will become clearer in the months ahead.

Doubts over the future direction of Europe have seldom been greater: the fallout from the Greek crisis has seen the ranks of traditional Euroscepticism reinforced from unexpected parts of the political spectrum that have hitherto been supportive of ‘the European project’. In this context, the environmental challenges that Europe faces provide a strong reason for avoiding knee-jerk reactions and for building on what the EU has been good at, namely successful environmental regulation, first and foremost by delivering on the commitments set out in the Seventh Environmental Action Programme.

Including high-level speakers from the European institutions, academia and civil society, the EEB conference will unleash new ideas, inspire and inform.