Europe’s Environment Agency published its 6th ‘State of the Environment’ and calls for urgent action in the next decade of policy making. Future policies need to address the loss of biodiversity, tackle the increasing impact of climate change and solve the problem of natural resources overconsumption. If the Europe Union and its member states can do so, there is hope as well according the report.
While European policies helped to improve the environment over recent decades, progress is not significant enough. Europe’s sustainability vision ‘living well within the limits of the planet’ can only be achieved if there is a fundamental change in future policy making. The report urges leaders, member states and policymakers to radically speed up and scale up next decade of action to get back on track and achieve Europe’s medium and longer-term policy goals.
The current range of European policy actions provide an essential foundation for future progress but they are not enough. Europe needs to do things better, it needs to address certain challenges differently, and it needs to rethink its investments. Achieving Europe’s goals will require better implementation and improved coordination between current policies. It will also need additional policy actions to achieve fundamental change in the key systems of production and consumption that underpin our modern lifestyles, such as for instance mobility, which have substantial environmental impacts.
The report also stresses the importance of how governments can enable a transition to sustainability and the need to address things differently. For example, Europe should rethink how it uses existing innovations and technologies, how production processes could be improved, how research and development into sustainability could be fostered and how changes in consumption patterns and ways of living could be stimulated.
Lastly, achieving such change will require investing in a sustainable future and stopping using public funds to subsidise environmentally damaging activities. Europe will gain immensely from such a change in investment priorities because of the economic and social opportunities that it can create. At the same time, it will be crucial to listen to public concerns and ensure widespread support for such a shift — a socially fair transition.
‘Europe’s environment is at a tipping point. We have a narrow window of opportunity in the next decade to scale up measures to protect nature, lessen the impacts of climate change and radically reduce our consumption of natural resources’, says Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director