The European Environment Agency released its fourth assessment report on the environmental situation in 53 European countries, highlighting significant air pollution, biodiversity loss and poor water quality across the region. The irony of the report is that a principal cause of these problems is growing consumption and the demand for transport neither of which people seem willing to reduce. In general, the report points to the environmental impact of agriculture and energy as well as consumption, transport and other economic activities.
Among the most alarming findings in the report is the observation that air pollution likely reduces the life expectancy of Western and Central Europeans by almost one year. Heightened economic activity in the EU’s wider neighbourhood, including Central Asia and the Caucasus region, has led to a 10% increase in air pollution since 2000.
Access to safe drinking water is a problem in many parts of the region, especially in rural areas. More than 100 million people in the pan-European region still do not have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Climate change is also increasing the frequency and severity of droughts.
700 European species are currently under threat”, according to the EEA, and the general biodiversity trend on agricultural land is negative despite agricultural policies being increasingly geared towards biodiversity conservation. There is a wide-ranging set of problems faced by Europe’s oceans, inland waters and coastal environments, including over-fishing, eutrophication (particularly from agricultural run-offs), pollution, oil spills and regular discharges from vessels, population densities and ecosystem collapses.
We may conclude that the report makes clear that we are good at talking about improving environment, but fail to actually take much action on a personal, business or institutional level.