Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Europe needs integrated environment policy says EEA

The overall quality of the environment in Europe is deteriorating despite more than 25 years of Community environmental policy, according to a report issued by Europe's green watchdog, the European Environment Agency.

The report, 'Environment in the European Union at the turn...
The overall quality of the environment in Europe is deteriorating despite more than 25 years of Community environmental policy, according to a report issued by Europe's green watchdog, the European Environment Agency.

The report, 'Environment in the European Union at the turn of the century', concludes that if no further action is taken, the EU's environment will remain under serious pressure from a range of activities - transport, industrial production, leisure activities and even individual lifestyles. It is forecast that as we enter the next century these areas will increase the pressure on the environment, and because they are interconnected they will have a knock-on effect on each other.

EEA communications officer Ernst Klatte said: 'Generally there is no improvement in the European environment, and with waste in particular things have deteriorated. We have actually been quite successful in the environmental policy area, but this report shows that it needs to be integrated with other policy areas which must also take responsibility for the environment.

'Environmental policy alone cannot provide sustainable development. Some steps have been taken in this direction - notably the Swedish initiative, the partnership for integration and the Cardiff initiative - but it is absolutely vital that proper integration happens and is accelerated.

The report assesses progress over the past five to ten years, and examines trends up to 2010, and 2050 for climate change and ozone-depleting substances. The main areas of concern highlighted are the effects on the environment of EU economic growth, energy consumption, tourism and chemical production.

Despite some progress in eco-efficiency - there is now less pollution as a ratio to GDP - production and consumption are set to increase, demanding more natural resources and generating more pollutants and waste. This development has already started eroding gains from environmental policy initiatives such as the EU's Air Quality Directives.

Energy efficiency has also improved, yet the EU's energy consumption is forecast to increase by 15% between 1995 and 2010, with a 30% rise in passenger car transport and a 50% rise in freight transport. The resultant rises in carbon dioxide emissions will affect climate change, and the EU target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eight per cent between 1990 and 2008-12 will not be met. Instead an increase of six per cent is expected.

The growth of tourism also has environmental consequences, increasing demand on transport and energy and pressurising rural resources. It is estimated that 85% of coastal zones are already at high or moderate risk from various pressures.

Total chemical production is also on a rising trend, and emissions or discharges of some heavy metals and hazardous chemicals are likely to rise. However other emissions such as lead and dioxins are expected to decrease.

Indeed the picture is not all gloomy. On the positive side the report confirms there has been progress in certain areas over the last five to ten years in line with the EU's environment policy.

There have been significant and positive cuts in ozone-depleting substances, and reductions in emissions contributing to acidification and phosphorous discharges to rivers. In the main economic sectors polluting emissions have significantly declined, particularly in energy, transport and industry sectors.

Small but significant changes are also taking place in our cities, as seen by the increased use of bicycles as a means of transport and a growth in organic agriculture.

Despite these improvements, the overall assessment is troubling. A spokesperson for the European Commission, DG XI - Environment, Nuclear Safety and Civil Protection - said: 'The report gives us cause for concern and confirms our policy of integration which began in 1993 and is set to continue at the Helsinki Summit. The structure of society and the consumption of goods is such that there is a huge demand on other sectors - transport, energy and so on - and we need to work with them.

'We welcome this report and have found it extremely useful in assessing our policy now and for the future. It is more than just words, it is the basis for action.'
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top