European Environment Agency’s state of environment report outlines the scale and urgency of environmental challenges facing Europe

The European Environment Agency (EEA) today launched its State of the Environment Report 2020, “European Environment — state and outlook report” (SOER 2020). The EPA welcomes this report, which provides an overview of the state of Europe’s environment.  It highlights that Europe faces environmental challenges of unprecedented scale and urgency and that, while European environment and climate policies have helped improve the environment, Europe is not making enough progress.

Laura Burke, EPA Director General and Chair of the Chair of the European Environment Agency (EEA) Management Board welcomed the publication of the landmark report, saying:

“The EEA’s “European Environment — state and outlook report” aims to inform discussions on today’s environmental challenges and the transition required to face climate challenges, reverse degradation and ensure future prosperity.  We in Ireland are living beyond our carbon and environmental means and, like our European counterparts, are signed up to shared international targets to meet our sustainability challenges.  The EEA’s “European Environment — state and outlook report” places Ireland’s responses to greenhouse gas emissions, environmental protection, sustainability and biodiversity in a broader policy context.

“The report outlines seven key areas where bold action is required to get Europe back on track to achieve its 2030 and 2050 goals and ambitions. Two of these actions are particularly worth reiterating.  The first is to fully implement existing environmental policies – this would take Ireland and Europe a long way towards achieving the sustainable future we envisage.  The second, developing long-term policy frameworks at European level with binding targets, would stimulate and guide coherent actions across policy areas and society.”

In launching the EEA’s report, Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director, European Environment Agency said:

“We face sustainability challenges that require urgent systemic solutions. This is the unambiguous message to policy makers in Europe and globally. We cannot predict the future, but we can shape it. SOER 2020 is the EEA’s most comprehensive integrated assessment to date, and the first to address rigorously our systemic challenges in the context of the sustainability transitions that we, as a society, must make.

“Citizens’ expectations for living in a healthy environment must be met, and this will require renewed focus on implementation as a cornerstone of EU and national policies.  We do not only have to do more; we also have to do things differently. Over the next decade, we are going to need very different answers to the world’s environmental and climate challenges than the ones we have provided over the past 40 years.”

Laura Burke also spoke about Ireland’s next state of environment report which is in development:

“As the EPA prepares to publish a national four-year assessment of our environment in 2020, indications are that many of the issues highlighted by the EEA chime with many of the challenges we are facing in Ireland. These include persistent and complex issues in the areas of water quality, air quality in urban zones, resource use, climate change, biodiversity, ecosystem loss, and environmental risks to health and well-being. Our report next year will focus on these challenges, providing assessments of key topics and sectors to inform policy and the public.”

The seven key areas set out in the report to get Europe back on track to achieve its 2030 and 2050 goals and ambitions are:

  1. Realise the unfulfilled potential of existing environmental policies. Fully implementing existing policies would take Europe a long way to achieving its environmental goals up to 2030.
  2. Embrace sustainability as the framework for policy making. Developing long-term policy frameworks with binding targets — starting with the food system, chemicals and land use — will stimulate and guide coherent actions across policy areas and society.
  3. Lead international action towards sustainability. The EU should use its diplomatic and economic influence to promote the adoption of ambitious international agreements in areas such as biodiversity and resource use.
  4. Foster innovation throughout society. Changing the current trajectory will closely depend on the emergence and spread of diverse forms of innovation that can trigger new ways of thinking and living.
  5. Scale up investments and reorient the finance sector to support sustainable projects and businesses. This requires investing in the future by making full use of public funds to support innovation and nature-based solutions, procuring sustainably and supporting impacted sectors and regions. It also entails engaging the financial sector in sustainable investment by implementing and building on the EU’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan.
  6. Manage risks and ensure a socially fair transition. A successful transition to sustainability will require that societies acknowledge potential risks, opportunities and trade-offs, and devise ways to manage them. EU and national policies have an essential role in achieving ‘just transitions’ making sure no one is left behind.
  7. Build more knowledge and know-how. This entails additional focus on understanding the systems driving environmental pressures, pathways to sustainability, promising initiatives and barriers to change. Further capacity-building is needed to navigate a rapidly changing world by investing in education and skills.

The EEA report, “European Environment – State and Outlook 2020” , is available on the EEA website.

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