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In April, the European Environment Agency will help raise awareness of the growing problem of noise pollution across Europe. We discussed with Colin Nugent, an EEA noise pollution expert, the very real health impacts of noise which are often underestimated.
At all governance levels, public policy making entails making decisions between different options and approaches. Some decisions, such as to invest in fossil fuels or renewables, might involve selecting one option over the other. Others might address the ‘how’ question – we will invest in renewables but which ones are the best for the society? Each policy decision results in outcomes, some of which might be unforeseen, unexpected or even detrimental to those whose lives it is supposed to improve. In the long term, the overall harm can be much larger than gains in the short term. To achieve the positive and lasting results on the ground, policy makers need to be able to make informed decisions, after assessing the benefits and costs of each available option.
Our climate is changing. We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the rate of climate change, and at the same time, take measures that help us prepare for current and future impacts. Both of these strands of action require unprecedented redirection of investments. This was acknowledged by the climate conferences in Paris and recently in Marrakesh. The finance sector can and will play an instrumental role in supporting Europe’s transition towards a low- carbon, climate-resilient society.
Last month the European Environment Agency (EEA) released its latest ‘Air quality in Europe’ report which showed that while air quality is slowly improving, air pollution remains the single largest environmental health hazard in Europe. We sat down with Alberto González Ortiz, an EEA air quality expert, to discuss the report’s findings and how technologies like satellite imagery are helping to improve air quality research.
Last December in Paris, the world set itself an ambitious target: limiting the global average temperature rise well below 2 degrees, while aiming to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. At the G20 summit earlier this month, China and the United States announced their formal commitment to join the Paris agreement. This is a major step forward for the international effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming. Nevertheless, the current reduction commitments made so far by signatory countries are not sufficient to meet this ambitious target.
Modern society depends on the movement of goods and people, but our current transport systems have negative impacts on human health and the environment. We spoke to Magdalena Jóźwicka, project manager of an upcoming report on electric vehicles, about the environmental advantages and challenges of using electricity as an alternative to conventional fuels for vehicles.
From walking and electric cars to massive freight vessels and high speed trains, a wide range of transport options exist. Many factors, including price, distance, availability of infrastructure and convenience, can play a role when selecting a transport mode. Car rides are the preferred mode for passenger transport in Europe. But even then, some options are cleaner than others. How can we opt for greener choices?
Transport networks have become a commonplace feature of the European landscape. They connect people, boost economic activity and provide access to key services, but they also introduce barriers between natural areas, while their use emits pollutants and introduces non-local species to ecosystems. Strong policy measures and a network of green spaces can help preserve and protect Europe’s natural wealth.
Ingredients for the meals we eat at home or in restaurants come from near and afar. In an increasingly urbanised and globalised world, the food produced in the countryside needs to be transported to the city. Much focus has been put on reducing ‘food miles’, which can be a relevant but sometimes limited concept. A smarter and cleaner transport system would solve only part of the issue. A wider systemic analysis of the entire food system is in order.
Our cities are under pressure like never before from increasing populations, traffic gridlock and climate change. How can we make them easier to get around, more liveable and sustainable? One urban design firm is helping transform the way we plan cities. We talked to Helle Søholt, founding partner and CEO of Gehl Architects, Copenhagen, to find out.
Despite temporary slowdowns, the demand for transport of both passengers and goods has been growing steadily and is projected to continue. As such, more and more cars are sold in Europe, the majority of which are diesel powered. And while engines are becoming more efficient, this growth means GHG emissions are a major concern.
Flying off for a weekend break, cotton t-shirts made in Bangladesh, roses from Kenya… These are some of the products available to us in a well-connected, globalised world. Aviation and shipping contribute to economic growth, but they also lead to impacts on human health, the climate and the environment. Faced with future projections of growth, these two sectors have started to explore ways to reduce their impact.
Air and noise pollution from transport cause a wide range of health problems, with road transport and diesel vehicles in particular the biggest contributors. The European Union and its Member States are taking a series of measures to reduce the impact of transport on health with some success. Innovative solutions and local action can improve the situation further.
Transport connects people, cultures, cities, countries and continents. It is one of the main pillars of the modern society and economy, allowing producers to sell their products across the world and travellers to discover new places. Transport networks also ensure access to key public services, such as education and health, contributing to a better quality of life. Connecting to transport helps boost the economy in remote areas, creating jobs and spreading wealth.
The European environmental data landscape has changed considerably over the last four decades. The complex nature of environmental degradation calls for more systemic analysis and relevant data to underpin it. In recent years, the European Environment Agency’s work has increasingly included systemic analyses. The EEA will continue to identify emerging issues and help expand Europe’s environmental knowledge.
The future looks bright for renewable energy sources which are playing an increasingly important role as Europe tries to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. We talked about the opportunities and challenges ahead for clean energy with Mihai Tomescu, energy expert at the European Environment Agency.
Our current resource use is not sustainable and is putting pressure on our planet. We need to facilitate a transition towards a circular, green economy by moving beyond waste policies and focusing on eco-design, innovation and investments. Research can foster not only innovation in production, but also in business models and financing mechanisms.
Forests in Europe provide us essential services: clean air, clean water, natural carbon storage, timber, food and other products. They are home to many species and habitats. We talked about the challenges Europe’s forests face with Annemarie Bastrup-Birk, forest and environment expert at the European Environment Agency.
The climate deal agreed in Paris by 195 countries is the first-ever universal and legally binding agreement of its kind. The Paris agreement is the result of many years of preparation, dialogue and growing awareness of the need to tackle current and potential impacts of climate change. It constitutes a major and promising step towards building a low-carbon and climate-resilient world. It also sends a clear signal to policy makers and businesses to move away from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy and adaptation actions.
With the recent publication of the EEA’s annual Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) for 2015, and with international attention focusing on the ongoing vehicle emissions scandal, we spoke with the EEA’s TERM coordinator, Alfredo Sánchez Vicente.
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/articles/all-articles or scan the QR code.
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