Green parties, some of which had emerged in the early 1970s, start to make political breakthroughs. Following the advent of direct elections to the European
Parliament, greens take their first elected seats there.
In 1986, an uncontrolled chain reaction in a reactor in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, 80 miles north of Kiev, causes explosions which blow off the reactor's lid. It is one of the biggest industrial accidents of all time.
The International Panel on Climate Change is set up and the Montreal Protocol is adopted, regulating the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances. The Brundtland report defines sustainable development and outlines the changes in policy needed to achieve it.
The European Community expands to twelve Member States and regains momentum through the Single European Act, which devotes an entire section to environmental policy.
The European Commission establishes the first European-wide system for environmental data collection. This will later inspire the creation of the European Environment Agency.
The EU continues to build the main body of its environmental legislation with the adoption of key pieces of legislation such as the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (1985).
The German Green Party is founded, and enters parliament for the first time in 1983.
Greece becomes the 10th Member State of the EU, Spain and Portugal follow five years later.
The European Commission creates its Environment Directorate-General.
The UN appoints the World Commission on Environment and Development. It is chaired by Norwegian Prime-Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.
The UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution enters into force.
The European Commission establishes the Corine programme (Coordination of Information on the Environment), the first European-wide system for environmental data collection. This will later inspire the creation of the European Environment Agency.
First observation of an ozone hole over Antarctica.
On 25 April, an uncontrolled chain reaction in a reactor in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, 80 miles north of Kiev, blows off the reactor's lid. More than 31 workers die instantly and around 135 000 people are evacuated from the surrounding area. A plume of radioactive fall-out drifts over western Soviet Union, eastern and western Europe, and eastern North America.
The Brundtland Commission’s report, Our Common Future, defines sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’
The Single European Act incorporates environmental protection into the Treaty of Rome. The year is designated as the European Year of the Environment.
The UN adopts the Montreal Protocol, which commits the signatory countries to phase out, by 2000, substances that deplete the ozone layer in the atmosphere.
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is established by the World Metereological Organisation and UNEP. Its aims are to review scientific research and provide governments with advice on climate problems.
The collapse of communism across central and eastern Europe is symbolised by the fall of the Berlin Wall.