The environment in Europe in 2016
The European policy on environment and climate has generated substantial benefits, as it has improved the quality of life, the environment and at the same time it has brought innovation, job creation and growth. Despite these improvements, Europe still faces continuing and growing environmental challenges. To address them, fundamental changes in production and consumption systems will be required, which are the main cause of environmental problems.
EU policies have generated substantial benefits
Nowadays, Europe is enjoying cleaner air and water, and more resources are recycled. However, Europe is still far from achieving the 2050 target of "living well within the limits of our planet" as established by the Seventh Programme of Environment Action. We use the resources more efficiently but we continue undermining the basic resources on which we depend in Europe and the rest of the world. Some problems such as the loss of biodiversity and climate change continue to pose significant threats.
According to Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, "Our analysis shows that over the years European policies have successfully addressed many environmental challenges. But we continue damaging the natural systems that sustain our welfare. And while living within the limits of our planet is a huge challenge, the benefits that will flow from it will be enormous. If we use the full potential of Europe to innovate, we can become truly sustainable and put us at the forefront in science and technology by creating new industries and a healthier society. "
SOER 2015 highlights the need for more ambitious policies to achieve the vision of Europe for 2050. It also stresses the need for new perspectives to respond to the systemic nature of many environmental problems. As an example, external pressures, including global megatrends are included, can need some specific efforts of local environmental management policies. Also, many of the environmental challenges are closely linked to the production and consumption systems involving many jobs that sustain many people, so that changes in these systems generate different costs and benefits. Similarly, improvements in efficiency tend to be invalidated because of the increase in consumption.
The report concludes that, despite the implementation of all existing policies, the environmental policies that are currently in force or the increased efficiency driven by economics and technology will not be sufficient to achieve the vision Europe for 2050.