Europe feels the heat
As part of its mandate, the European Environment Agency (EEA) provides a comprehensive review of the state of the European Environment every five years: ‘The European environment: state and outlook 2005’. This is the third state and outlook report on the European environment by the EEA since 1994.
This edition of the report contains three parts:
- An integrated assessment of Europe’s environment
- A core set of indicators
- A country by country analysis
Policy makers, businesses and individuals to act now on a range of environmental matters or pay a heavy price later
The four hottest years on record were 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Ten percent of Alpine glaciers disappeared during the summer of 2003 alone. At current rates, three quarters of Switzerland’s glaciers will have melted by 2050. Europe has not seen climate changes on this scale for 5,000 years, says a new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), based in Copenhagen. Without effective action over several decades, global warming will see ice sheets melting in the north and the spread of deserts from the south. The continent’s population could effectively become concentrated in the centre. Even if global warming is constrained to the EU target of a 2 degree increase, Europeans will be living in atmospheric conditions that human beings have never experienced. Deeper cuts in emissions are needed. Besides climate change, EEA also names air pollution, water quality and quantity, and land use as major problem areas.
Past EU legislation on environment has worked, says the report. We have cleaned up our water and our air, phased out some ozone depleting substances and have doubled rates of waste recycling. We also have cars that pollute less; without the dramatic improvements made by catalytic converters over the past twenty years, certain emissions would have been ten times the level they are now. Yet, it has taken ten to twenty years for these actions to show results, the report says.
These environmental success stories are now being overtaken by changes in personal consumption patterns. Europeans are living longer and more of us live alone putting greater demands on living space. Between 1990 and 2000, more than 800,000 hectares, of Europe’s land was built on. That is an area three times the size of Luxembourg.
We travel further and more often and are consuming the planet’s natural resources at twice the world’s average rate. Transport is the fastest growing contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. For example, air travel is expected to double between now and 2030. As a result, we leave a clear footprint outside Europe, depleting natural resources and damaging the world’s environment.
The report assesses progress across 31 European countries. It includes a country by country analysis with performance indicators and international comparisons. The Netherlands is on track with regard to emissions of greenhouse gases, acidifying substances and ozone precursors, but uses a lot of energy per person.
Related reports for the Netherlands: