One of the main conclusions in EEA's flagship report, SOER 2010, appears obvious: 'environmental challenges are complex and can't be understood in isolation'.
The renewable energy sector has developed a lot the last ten years — a largely ignored toddler has become a wilful teenager. Decisions that can help it mature further will depend on understanding what has nurtured its growth so far.
Clean water is a natural resource vital not only for life on Earth but also for the wellbeing of our societies and economy. However, in many parts of Europe, this valuable resource is coming under increasing pressure, often seen in the form of over-exploitation and pollution.
From small enterprises to multinationals, many companies are looking for ways to retain or increase their market shares. In times of tough global competition, the pursuit of sustainability suggests much more than ‘greening’ the corporate image and cutting down production costs. It might mean new lines of business.
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.
Europeans consume more natural resources than Europe’s environment can produce. Our consumption undermines the capacity of European ecosystems to provide goods and services and puts severe strain on the global environment.
Most people will remember 2011 as a year of financial turmoil, the Japanese earthquake tsunami nuclear disaster, country bailouts in Europe and mass protests linked to the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Spanish Indignados. Only a few will remember that it was also the year scientists discovered more than 18 000 new species living on our planet. Even fewer can name one species that was declared extinct.
Climate change is happening. The current global average temperature is already about 0.7-0.8 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level. Even if greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations had stabilized in the year 2000, temperatures are predicted to increase by 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level by the end of the 21st century.
We need food and we need clean freshwater to produce our food. With growing demand from human activities on the one hand and climate change on the other, many regions especially in the south struggle to find enough freshwater to meet their needs. How can we continue growing food without letting nature go thirsty for clean water? A more efficient use of water in agriculture would certainly help.
The shortcomings of GDP as a measure of economic and social wellbeing have been recognised for decades. Now the economic and environmental crises have created the political momentum for a radical revision of national accounting methods.
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.