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EEA Report Assesses Environmental Pressures from Consumption and Production

EEA4 March 2013: In a new report analyzing environmental pressures from production and consumption, the European Environment Agency (EEA) argues that the EU's environmental goals cannot be reached without increased technology improvements, structural economic changes, and behavioral changes.

The report, titled "Environmental Pressures from European Consumption and Production: A Study in Integrated Environmental and Economic Analysis," EEA Technical report No 2/2013, explains the use of environmentally‑extended input-output analysis to assess environmental pressures caused by production and consumption. The production perspective analyzes direct pressures from production for both domestic consumption and exports. The consumption analysis attributes these pressures to broad groups of products and services, and assesses both the consumption of a final product and the accumulated pressures from the product's global production and distribution.

The report assesses four types of environmental pressures: raw material use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, acidifying air emissions, and air pollutants leading to harmful ground-level ozone. The report finds that in European production agriculture, the electricity industry, transport services and certain manufacturing industries (refinery and chemical products, non-metallic mineral products, basic metals) account for 75% of GHG emissions, 88% of acidifying emissions and 68% of emissions of ground-level ozone precursors, while material extraction is dominated by agriculture and forestry (25%) and mining industries (75%).

Regarding consumption patterns, the report finds that construction work, food products, products of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and electricity, gas and water services contribute 42% to GHG emissions, 52% to acidifying emissions, 37% to ground ozone precursors and 57% to material input, while combined only representing 17% of total consumption expenditure.

The report further finds that decoupling of environmental pressures from output growth has been mainly achieved through reducing the environmental pressure intensity (i.e. pressure per € of output), and only minimally through structural economic changes, such as an increase in the share of services. Such changes are necessary, the report argues, to reach the EU's climate objective of 80-95% GHG emissions reductions by 2050.

The report argues that to reduce environmental pressures from consumption, both technology improvements and behavioral changes, such as the consumption of less-intensive product groups, are required. [EEA Press Release] [Publication: Environmental Pressures from European Consumption and Production: A study in integrated environmental and economic analysis]