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Latest trends show need for more environmental action in key sectors

Evidence of climate change is growing; nitrate pollution from farming continues; much of Europe's urban population is still exposed to air pollution above health protection levels; packaging waste is increasing and is projected to continue doing so. These are among the main findings of the EEA's latest annual survey of environmental trends in its 31 member countries., EEA Signals 2004, published today.

NEWS RELEASE


Copenhagen/Brussels, 1 June 2004


Latest trends show need for more environmental action in key sectors


Evidence of climate change is growing, both on land and in the oceans: glaciers are receding and marine species are being disturbed.


Nitrate pollution from farming continues: evidence suggests consumers are paying most of the clean-up costs for drinking water.


Much of Europe's urban population is still exposed to air pollution above health protection levels: particulates and ozone are the main concerns.


Packaging waste is increasing and is projected to continue doing so; overall trends in waste generation are unsustainable and current policy tools inadequate.


These are among the main findings of the European Environment Agency's latest annual survey of environmental trends in its 31 member countries, EEA Signals 2004, published today.


"As we look ahead to World Environment Day on 5 June, the key messages in this year's report highlight the need to make further progress in managing the environmental impacts of agriculture, transport and energy in particular, as well as influencing changes in consumer behaviour," said Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director.


"This can be achieved by further increasing the use of market-based instruments to manage demand and fully incorporate environmental and other 'external' costs into prices, for example for transport; by switching more extensively to environmentally targeted subsidies, for example for agriculture; and by promoting innovation, for example for renewable energies."


"Similar instruments could also help address resource use and waste."


"The benefits for the environment and human health of taking such action will be multi-dimensional, affecting issues such as climate change, air pollution, biodiversity and water quality," Prof. McGlade added.


Providing an update on selected environmental issues, the latest edition of EEA Signals covers aspects of agriculture, water pollution, nature protection, packaging waste, energy, transport, air pollution and climate change.


The report also gives an environmental perspective on the economic and social situation in Europe, including trends in demography and resource use.


It highlights, for example, that the area of built-up land is growing much faster than the population and that social pressures are driving a trend towards more and smaller households, which use resources less efficiently than large ones.


It also underlines that energy consumption is still rising, giving major cause for concern over resulting impacts on the climate. Measures available to reduce demand include increasing energy efficiency, improving the uptake of renewable energies and rethinking options for transport.


The number of weather- and climate related disasters in Europe doubled during the 1990s compared with a decade earlier. The average cost is conservatively estimated at around 10 billion euros per year and rising.


"Such figures suggest that managing Europe's natural resources is increasingly important for ensuring the viability of Europe's economic and social capital," Prof. McGlade said.


"This is money that could otherwise be spent in productive ways, for example to promote competitiveness and innovation, which are defining conditions for delivering sustainable economic growth."


EEA Signals 2004 was presented on the opening day of this year's Brussels Green Week, the largest annual international forum for discussion of the European Union environmental policy, organised by the European Commission's directorate-general for environment.


The report is available at http://reports.eea.europa.eu/signals-2004/en


About the EEA


The European Environment Agency is the leading public body in Europe dedicated to providing sound, independent information on the environment to policy-makers and the public. Operational in Copenhagen since 1994, the EEA is the hub of the European environment information and observation network (Eionet), a network of around 300 bodies across Europe through which it collects and disseminates environment-related data and information. An EU body, the Agency is open to all nations that share its objectives. It currently has 31 member countries: the 25 EU Member States, the three EU candidate countries - Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey - and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Membership negotiations are under way with Switzerland.




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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100