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The natural environment can benefit our health and quality of life, while environmental pollution has significant costs. Unfortunately, such links between environment, health and wellbeing are often ignored within science and policy. A new report highlights the importance of taking a broader, more systemic view.
Climate change is impacting and will continue to impact Europe. Are cities ready to face rising sea levels and temperatures and more extreme events like floods, droughts or heat waves? We asked this question to Birgit Georgi, working on regional vulnerability and climate change adaptation at the European Environment Agency.
The European Union has been reducing its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. The EU has ‘over-achieved’ its Kyoto target for the period 2008–2012 and is projected to ‘over-achieve’ its 2020 targets. Can we reduce GHG emissions and have a strong economy at the same time? What was the impact of the recent recession on the EU’s GHG emissions? Does policy work?
We are using more and more of natural resources due to population growth, lifestyle changes and increasing personal consumption. To tackle our unsustainable consumption, we need to address the entire resource system, including production methods, demand patterns and supply chains. We take a closer look at food.
Europeans of all ages are consumers. What we choose to consume and buy plays a role in determining what is produced. But how do we choose what to buy? Is it a rational or an impulsive decision? We asked Lucia Reisch, from Copenhagen Business School, about consumer behaviour in Europe.
Our well-being depends on using natural resources. We extract resources, and transform them into food, buildings, furniture, electronic devices, clothes, etc. Yet, our exploitation of resources outpaces the environment’s ability to regenerate them and provide for us. How can we ensure the long-term well-being of our society? Greening our economy can certainly help.
More than three quarters of Europeans live in urban areas. What urban residents produce, buy, eat, and throw away, the way they move around and where they live all have an impact on the environment. At the same time, the way a city is built also affects the way its residents live. We asked Roland Zinkernagel from the City of Malmö in Sweden about concrete actions to make their city sustainable.
Around 70 % of our planet is covered by oceans and marine litter can be found almost everywhere. Marine litter, plastics in particular, pose a threat not only to the health of our seas and coasts, but also to our economy and our communities. Most marine litter is generated by land-based activities. How can we stop the flow of litter into our seas? The best place to start tackling this global marine problem is on land.
Waste is not only an environmental problem, but also an economic loss. On average Europeans produce 481 kilogrammes of municipal waste per year. An increasing share of this is recycled or composted, and less is sent to landfill. How can we change the way we produce and consume so as to produce less and less waste, while using all waste as a resource?
Our quality of life, health and jobs all depend on the environment. However, the way and the rate we are using up natural resources today risk undermining our well-being along with nature’s ability to provide for us. We need to fundamentally transform the way we produce, consume and live. We need to green our economy and the transition needs to start today.
We need to change the way we produce goods and services. We need to ‘green’ our economy. But this does not consist of developing just a number of selected sectors, such as renewables, eco-innovation, corresponding to 5 or even 10 percent of our economy. It requires greening the entire economy. The question is: ‘How do we create a performing economy that creates jobs and ensures our well-being, and yet respects the limits of our planet?’
Europe produces large amounts of waste. How does Europe manage its waste? Is it a problem or a resource? We asked these questions to Almut Reichel who works on waste and sustainable consumption issues at the European Environment Agency.
To produce food in sufficient quantities, Europe relies on intensive agriculture, which impacts the environment and our health. Can Europe find a more environment-friendly way to produce food? We asked this question to Ybele Hoogeveen who is leading a group at the European Environment Agency working on the impact of resource use on the environment and human well-being.
The European economy is still feeling the impact of the economic crisis that started in 2008. Unemployment and pay cuts have affected millions. When new graduates cannot find jobs in one of the richest parts of the world, should we talk about the environment? The European Union's new environmental action programme does exactly this, but not only. It also identifies the environment as an integral and inseparable part of our health and our economy.
We live in a world of continuous change. How can we steer these on-going changes to achieve global sustainability by 2050? How can we strike a balance between the economy and the environment, the short-term and the long-term? The answer lies in how we manage the transition process without locking ourselves into unsustainable systems.
"The positive news is that over the last decades, the situation has improved substantially in terms of exposure to several air pollutants. But these pollutants, where we achieved the most significant reductions are not the ones causing most harm to human health and the environment" says Valentin Foltescu, who works on air quality assessment and data reporting at the EEA. We asked Valentin what the EEA does on air quality and what the latest data says.
We breathe from the moment we are born until the moment we die. It is a vital and constant need, not only for us but for all life on Earth. Poor air quality affects us all: it harms our health and the health of the environment, which leads to economic losses. But what does the air we breathe consist of and where do the various air pollutants come from?
Martin Fitzpatrick is a Principal Environmental Health Officer in the air quality
monitoring and noise unit of Dublin City Council, Ireland. He is also the Dublin
contact point for a pilot project run by the European Commission DG Environment
and the EEA aimed at improving the implementation of air legislation. We asked
him how Dublin tackles the health problems linked to poor air quality.
Our knowledge and understanding of air pollution is growing every year. We have an expanding network of monitoring stations reporting data on a wide range of air pollutants, complemented with results from air quality models. We now have to make sure that scientific knowledge and policy continue to develop hand in hand.
Air pollution is not the same everywhere. Different pollutants are released into
the atmosphere from a wide range of sources. Once in the atmosphere, they
can transform into new pollutants and spread around the world. Designing and
implementing policies to address this complexity are not easy tasks. Below is an
overview of air legislation in the European Union.
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