UN’s new assessment calls for Europe to tackle its environmental challenges

November 8, 2022
By CSE

“Europe’s Environment – The Seventh Pan-European Environmental Assessment” presents the progress made in environmental protection, but also reveals the shortcomings of our efforts to protect the environment and people of the pan-European region.

 

 

Just over 10 years ago, at the Seventh Environment for Europe Conference, the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS), began being developed. Over the past decade, the countries of Europe and Central America have developed their information systems to institute SEIS. Upon its successful establishment, it was then used to support a new report prepared by ECE and the United Nations Environmental Programme. This report, called “Europe’s Environment – The Seventh Pan-European Environmental Assessment”, calls for action and offers recommendations based on the three pillars of the planetary crisis: climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss.

 

Key takeaways of the report

While the full length report can be found here, here are the key takeaways:

  1. Air pollution– Between 2009 and 2018, there was a 13% reduction in premature deaths due to long term exposure to air pollution recorded by 41 European countries. However, additional measures by countries are required to align with WHO’s latest air quality guidelines. Air pollution poses the greatest risk to health in the pan-European region, so an expeditious approach is vital.
  2. GHG emissions– Net GHG emissions continue to increase, despite all pan-European countries committing to reduction targets. Use of renewables has grown, yet 78% of total final energy consumption is fossil fuel based. Effective incentives for the use of renewable energy must be implemented so that their use can grow simultaneously with the energy sector.
  3. Water challenges- Climate change is posing new challenges for our freshwater systems. Floods and droughts are becoming an ever present reality. The pollution and overuse of these symptoms diminishes our supply even further. Water recycling and conservation efforts must be explored.
  4. Biological ecosystems– Despite increased area of both marine and terrestrial protected areas, biodiversity loss persists at an increasing rate. Biodiversity is vital for a healthy, sustainable future. Governments need to remove or amend subsidies that lead to deforestation or similar activities with diminished biodiversity consequences.
  5. Green economy– A circular economy framework is implemented across the pan-European region, yet the amount of waste generated grows and recycling is used at a minimal rate. Governments should implement eco-design requirements for products released on the market, and raw materials should have a strengthened management system.
  6. Sustainable infrastructure development– Sustainability has yet to become a foundational consideration for the cost-benefit analysis of infrastructure projects. Climate risk or cost of pollution are not being valued into these projects despite implementation tools existing.

 

There are a multitude of frameworks and approaches existing to combat climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, along with their negative human and environmental health impacts. However, in line with the “Europe’s Environment – The Seventh Pan-European Environmental Assessment” report’s recommendations, their implementation must be accelerated significantly. This report aims to provide relevant findings and recommendations to inform stakeholders and urge political commitment and behavioral changes.

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