Between 1996 and 2012, trends in household spending patterns were mixed. The trend, however, is towards an increasing share of consumption categories with reduced environmental pressures per Euro spent. In addition, almost all consumption categories have also seen reductions in environmental pressure intensities. Together, these two developments are likely to have caused a relative decoupling of environmental pressures from growth in household consumption expenditure.
European economic production and consumption have become less waste intensive, even after the economic downturn since 2008 is considered in the analysis.
From the production side, waste generation from manufacturing in the EU-28 and Norway declined by 25% in absolute terms between 2004 and 2012, despite an increase of 7% in sectoral economic output. Waste generation by the service sector declined by 23% in the same period, despite an increase of 13% in sectoral economic output.
Turning to consumption, total municipal waste generation in EEA countries declined by 2% between 2004 and 2012, despite a 7% increase in real household expenditure.
One of the objectives in EU waste policy is to reduce waste generation in absolute terms, within the overall goal to decouple economic growth from resource use and environmental impacts. Waste prevention efforts across Europe seems to contribute to the waste objectives; with considerable differences between the countries. Wider analysis across different economic sectors within and beyond EU borders will be needed in order to provide more comprehensive conclusions.
Acidification and eutrophication
Acidification: In the EU-28, the ecosystem area where acidification critical loads were exceeded decreased from 43% in 1980 to 7% in 2010 (7% for all EEA member countries). There remain some areas where the interim objective for reducing acidification, as defined in the National Emission Ceiling Directive 2001/81/EC, has not been met.
Eutrophication: The EU-28 ecosystem area, where the critical loads for eutrophication were exceeded, peaked at 84% in 1990 and decreased to 63% in 2010 (55% in EEA member countries). This percentage is projected to decrease to 54% in 2020, assuming implementation of current legislation (48% in EEA member countries). The magnitude of the exceedances is projected to reduce considerably in most areas, except for a few 'hot spot' areas in western France and the border areas between the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, as well as in northern Italy.
Outlook: Only 4% of the EU-28 ecosystem area is still projected to be in exceedance of acidification critical loads in 2020 if current legislation is fully implemented (3% in EEA member countries). The eutrophication reduction target set in the updated EU air pollution strategy proposed by the European Commission in late 2013, will be met by 2030 if it is assumed that all maximum technically feasible reduction measures are implemented, but will not be met by current legislation.
Most vegetation and agricultural crops are exposed to ozone levels exceeding the long term objective given in the EU Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC. A significant fraction is also exposed to levels above the target value threshold defined in the directive. For the past three years, however, the agricultural area exposed to concentrations above the target value threshold is well below 25%.
Accumulated concentrations of crop exposure to ozone over summer months show large year-to-year variations. There is a tendency to decreasing levels after 2006, although this is not statistically significant.
With regard to forest ozone exposure, during the period 2004 to 2011, 60% or more of the forest area has been exposed to concentrations above the critical level set by the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution.
Concentrations of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and ammonium have markedly decreased in European rivers in the period 1992 to 2012, mainly due to a general improvement in waste water treatment.
Similarly, concentrations of phosphate in European rivers more than halved over the period 1992 to 2012. The decrease in river orthophosphate is due to the measures introduced by national and European legislation, in particular the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, which involves the removal of nutrients. Also the change to the use of phosphate-free detergents has contributed to lower phosphorus concentrations.
River nitrate concentrations have declined steadily from 2.7 to 2.1 mg N/l over the period 1992 to 2012. Agriculture is the largest contributor of nitrogen pollution, and due to the EU Nitrate Directive and national measures, the nitrogen pollution from agriculture has been reduced and this is reflected in lower river nitrate concentrations.
More than half of the river and lake water bodies in Europe are reported to be in less than good ecological status or potential, and will need mitigation and/or restoration measures to meet the Water Framework Directive objective of all water bodies having good status by 2015.
The global average concentrations of various greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere continue to increase. The combustion of fossil fuels from human activities and land-use changes are largely responsible for this increase.
The concentration of all GHGs, including cooling aerosols that are relevant in the context of the 2 o C temperature target, reached a value of 435 parts per million (ppm) CO 2 equivalents in 2012, an increase of about 3 ppm compared to 2011. As such the concentration continued to close on the threshold of 450 ppm.
In 2012, t he concentration of the six GHGs included in the Kyoto Protocol had reached 449 ppm CO 2 equivalent, an increase of 171 ppm (around +62%) compared to pre-industrial levels.
The concentration of CO 2 , the most important GHG, reached a level of 393 ppm by 2012, and further increased to 396 ppm in 2013. This is an increase of approximately 118 ppm (around +42%) compared to pre-industrial levels.
Concentrations of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and total ammonium have decreased in European rivers in the period 1992 to 2012 (Fig. 1), mainly due to general improvement in waste water treatment.
Since 2005, average nitrate concentrations in European groundwater have declined and in 2011, the mean concentration had almost returned to the 1992 level.
The average nitrate concentration in European rivers declined by 0.03 milligrams per liter of nitrogen (mg N/l) (0.8%) per year over the period 1992 to 2012.
The decline in nitrate concentration reflects the effect of measures to reduce agricultural inputs of nitrate, as well as improvements in wastewater treatment.
Average orthophosphate concentration in European rivers has decreased markedly over the last two decades (0.003 milligrams per liter of phosphorous (mg P/l) or 2.1% per year).
Also, average lake phosphorus concentration decreased over the period 1992-2012 (0.0004 mg P/l, or 0.8% per year).
The decrease in phosphorus concentration reflects both improvements in wastewater treatment and the reduction of phosphorus in detergents.
Understanding and awareness of biodiversity have increased slightly since 2007. Citizens are also more aware of the threats and challenges facing biodiversity, but change in levels of awareness is slow. In 2013, more than two-thirds of EU citizens had heard of biodiversity, but only 44% know the meaning of the word. This is, however, 10% more than in 2007.
62% of EU citizens (against 58% in 2010) very much agree that it is important to halt biodiversity loss because our well-being and quality of life is based upon nature and biodiversity (TNS, 2013).
Since 2000, an overall increase of deadwood has been observed in several countries, a sign of more biodiversity-friendly management practices, but also of large disturbances such as storms.
The ratio of felling to increment is relatively stable and remains under 80% for most of the countries across Europe. This utilisation rate has allowed the forest stock to increase.
The total area of nationally-designated protected areas in Europe  has increased over time and amounted to over 1,1 million square kilometres in 39 European countries in 2014. With more than 95 000 sites, Europe still has more protected areas than any other region in the world.
The total area of nationally designated protected areas currently covers about 21% of terrestrial territory and inland waters, although further expansion of the marine network is required to meet targets.
 A “Nationally designated area” is an area designated by a national designation instrument based on national legislation. If a country has included the sites designated under the EU Birds and Habitats directive in its legislation, the Natura 2000 sites of this country are included in the figure.
Between 2000 and 2006 the highest absolute increase in ecosystem coverage occurred in transitional woodland, mostly at the expense of woodland and forest. A decrease was observed in vulnerable ecosystems such as wetlands, heathland and sparsely vegetated land. Agricultural land coverage also decreased, with the majority of changes caused by urbanisation and intensification of agriculture, affecting, particularly, grassland and agricultural mosaics. Urban areas continued to increase dramatically. Rivers, lakes and coastal areas increased to a minor extent.
Since 1990, common bird populations have decreased by around 12% in 27 European countries. The decline of common farmland birds was more pronounced at 30%, whereas common forest birds declined by 8%.
Grassland butterflies have also declined dramatically (50%) since 1990 in 19 European countries and this reduction shows no sign of levelling off.
Europe has considerable areas of High Nature Value (HNV) farmland, which provide habitats for a wide range of species. Such areas are under threat, however, from both the intensification of farming and land abandonment. The mere presence of HNV farmland is not proof of sustainable management but promoting conservation and sustainable farming practices in these areas is crucial for biodiversity.
Organic farming has developed rapidly since the beginning of the 1990s and continues to do so. Between 2002 and 2011, the total area under organic agriculture in the EU-27 increased by 6% per year and in 2011 amounted to an estimated 5.4% of the utilised agricultural area (UAA) (EC, 2013).
Following the turbulence of the late 2000s, global GDP is projected to grow steadily up to 2050. Rapid growth is projected for China, with it overtaking the USA as the biggest single economy before 2020. India is also expected to grow rapidly surpassing the EU before 2050.
Since 2000, the EU28 final energy intensity has decreased by 16% at an annual average rate of 2%/year. Since 2005, final energy intensity decreased by 11.9% at an annual rate of 1.8%/year, showing an absolute decoupling, between economic growth and final energy consumption. Since 2005, final energy intensity in industry, services and agriculture sectors decreased by 2.5%/year, 2.0%/year and 1.8%/year, respectively. In the transport sector the final energy intensity has decreased by 1.5%/year since 2005. In the household sector the final energy intensity decreased by 1.1%/year since 2005. Since 2000, the final energy intensity in non-EU EEA countries has decreased by 14% at an annual average rate of 2%/year. The annual decrease is slightly smaller than in the EU-28 due to an increase of the industry energy intensity in Turkey and Iceland.
Between 1990 and 2012 the efficiency of electricity and heat production in public conventional thermal power plants in the EU28 improved from 42.2% in 1990 to 47.6% in 2012. In the non-EU EEA countries, this efficiency improved from 34.4% in 1990 to 42.1% in 2012. Between 2005 and 2012, the efficiency in public conventional thermal power plants stabilized more or less in both the EU28 and the non-EU EEA countries. An efficiency improvement in the EU28 of about 2 percentage points between 2005 and 2010 is attributed to an increased use of natural gas. Between 2010 an 2012 the efficiency in the EU28 dropped by the same amount, due to increased use of coal in stead of gas in combination with the use of existing, low efficiency coal plants.
The efficiency of electricity and heat production from autoproducers conventional thermal power plants in the EU and non-EU EEA countries decreased between 2005 and 2012 by about 5 percentage points, from about 60% in 2005 to about 55% in 2012.
River and coastal flooding have affected millions of people in Europe in the last decade. They affect human health through drowning, heart attacks, injuries, infections, exposure to chemical hazards, psychosocial consequences as well as disruption of services, including health services.
Observed increases in heavy precipitation and extreme coastal high-water events have increased the risk of river and coastal flooding in many European regions.
In the absence of additional adaptation, the projected increases in extreme precipitation events and in sea level would substantially increase the health risks associated with river and coastal flooding in Europe.
Over the period 1990-2012, final energy efficiency increased by 25% in EU28 countries at an annual average rate of 1.3%/year, driven by improvements in the industrial sector (1.7%/year) and households (1.5%/year). Half of the efficiency gains achieved through technological innovation in the household sector have been offset by increasing number of electrical appliances and larger homes. One third of total savings in space heating in the residential sector is due to new building codes, since a building built in 2012 consumed approximately 40% less energy than one built in 1990.
Energy Trends in Europe
In 2012, the final energy consumption reached 1,104 Mtoe at EU-level (see also ENER 16). Buildings (households and services) consumed almost 40% of final energy consumption in 2012 (of which 26% for households), transport 32% (+6 points compared to 1990) followed by industry with 26% (-8 points compared to 1990) and agriculture with 2%.
The EU28 is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, which accounted in 2012 for 74.6% of the total gross inland energy consumption compared to renewables at only 11%. The share of fossil fuels (gas, solid fuels and oil)  in the total gross inland energy consumption of the EU28 declined from 83.0% in 1990 to 74.6% in 2012. at an annual rate of 0.3 % per year. Between 2005 and 2012, the share of fossil fuels in gross inland energy consumption decreased slightly faster at 0.6 % per year.
The EU’s dependence on imports of fossil fuels from non-EU countries remained relatively stable between 2005 and 2012. In 2012, EU28 net import of fossil fuels was 53.4% of its total gross inland energy consumption with 58.2% for oil, 28.3% for gas and 13.6% for solid fuels.
In 2012 only 71.4% of the total gross inland energy consumption in the EU28 reached the end users. Between 1990 and 2012, energy losses in transformation and distribution were about 29% of total gross inland energy consumption and did not show a significant trend.
The average efficiency of electricity and heat production of conventional thermal power stations and district heating plants in the EU28 improved over the period 1990 and 2012 by 4.8 percentage points to reach 49.4% in 2012. The main increase was seen between 1990 and 2010 with an increase of 6.3 percentage points (from 44.6% in 1990 to 50.9% in 2010). The improvement before 2010 was due to the closure of old inefficient plants, improvements in existing technologies, often combined with a switch from coal power plants to more efficient combined cycle gas turbines. Between 2010 and 2012, there was a slight fall in the efficiency of electricity and heat production from conventional thermal power plants and district heating plants of 1.5 percentage points (from 50.9% in 2010 to 49.4% in 2012) because of increased power production from coal and lignite and due to lower heat production.
 Definitions are provided in the meta data.