EEA Releases Fourth Environment State and Outlook Report

30 November 2010: The European Environment Agency (EEA) has released its fourth Environment State and Outlook report (SOER 2010), which aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of environmental change in Europe and action taken to shift to a resource-efficient green economy.

The report shows mounting demands on natural capital that are exerting increased pressure on ecosystems, economies and social cohesion in Europe and elsewhere, and seeks to show that well-designed environmental policies continue to improve Europe's environment without undermining Europe's growth potential.

The report notes that a complete shift to a resource-efficient green economy requires that all environmental resources (biodiversity, land, carbon, rivers, the seas and the air) are fully considered in production, consumption and global trade decisions. It also highlights a greater understanding of the links between climate change, biodiversity, resource use and people's health; and how tools like spatial planning, ecological tax reform, pollution prevention, precaution and resource accounting can underpin a natural capital-based approach to their management.

On climate change, the report notes that the EU has made progress in cutting emissions and expanding renewable energy: it shows that the EU-27's 2009 emissions stand 17% below 1990 levels. It also reveals that sectoral trends are not all positive: the EU-27 emissions from transport, for instance, rose by 24% between 1990 and 2008. On biodiversity, ecosystems and people's health, the report notes that the EU's Natura 2000 network of protected areas, which covers around 18% of EU land, has helped protect endangered species and preserve green spaces for leisure; while intensification of land use, loss of habitats and overfishing prevented the EU from meeting its target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

By showing multiple links between different challenges, environmental and others, the report aims to encourage increased integrated actions across different policy areas, so as to deliver improvements faster and maximise co-benefits. It underscores that food, energy and water security are key drivers of land use; and that accounting and pricing that takes full account of resource use impacts are essential for steering business and consumers towards enhanced resource efficiency. The report also stresses that policy alone cannot halt or reverse adverse environmental trends, as citizen involvement is also needed to reduce impacts on the environment. SOER 2010 concludes that a fully integrated approach to transforming Europe to a resource-efficient green economy can not only result in a healthy environment, but also boost prosperity and social cohesion. [EEA Press Release][The Report]