EU environment and climate policies have delivered substantial benefits over recent decades, such as cleaner air and water. Nevertheless, Europe, as well as the rest of the globe, is facing environmental challenges of unprecedented scale and urgency.

Europe faces persistent problems in areas such as biodiversity loss, resource use, climate change impacts and environmental risks to health and well-being. The continent continues to consume more resources and contribute more to environmental degradation than other world regions.

Policy measures targeted at nature protection have delivered benefits in some areas, but many problems persist and some are getting worse. For example, reduced pollution has improved water quality, but only 40% of the EU’s surface waters had achieved good ecological status by 2015. Land management has improved, but landscape fragmentation continues to increase, damaging habitats and biodiversity. 75% of Europe’s ecosystem area is exposed to excessive nitrogen levels, causing eutrophication. The impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystems are expected to intensify, while activities such as agriculture, fisheries, transport, industry and energy production continue to cause biodiversity loss, resource extraction and harmful emissions.

Although good progress has been made towards reducing air pollution from industry, transport and households — reducing the number of deaths linked to air pollution as a result, over 10% of annual premature human deaths in the EU are related to environmental pollution. An increasing body of evidence demonstrates that citizens’ health is being adversely affected by hazardous chemicals.

The outlook for 2030 suggests that the current rate of progress will not be sufficient to meet 2030 and 2050 climate and energy targets.

Europe has made progress in relation to resource efficiency and the circular economy. Material consumption has remained relatively stable and resource efficiency improved as the gross domestic product has increased. Total EU water abstraction decreased by 15% between 2000 and 2019.

As set in the European Green Deal, Europe is committed to becoming a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Faced with the sustainability challenges above, achieving sustainability requires a complete transformation of key systems — the way we produce our food, we produce and consume goods, we move and build our cities, while boosting nature’s resilience and preparing for the impacts of climate change.

Europe has achieved some progress towards its environmental targets, but more efforts are needed to reach climate neutrality and zero pollution targets for 2050. Habitats and species are under immense pressure.

  • Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU declined by 30% between 1990 and 2021, due to both policy measures and economic factors. However, considering the pace of reductions in the past, more rapid emission reductions will be needed to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, as the EU targets require.
  • Around half of the bird species had a good EU status in 2018, which is slightly less (5%) than during the last reporting period (2008-2012). The proportion of species with poor and bad status, however, has increased by 7% in the last 6 years to reach a total of 39%.
  • Only 15% of habitat assessments have a good conservation status, with 81% having poor or bad conservation status at the EU level and 4% were reported as unknown.
  • In 2020 in the European Union, 96% of the urban population was exposed to levels of fine particulate matter above the health-based guideline level set by the World Health Organization. In 2020, exposure to concentrations of fine particulate matter above the 2021 World Health Organization guideline level resulted in 238,000 premature deaths in the EU-27.
  • Climate change impacts are having far-reaching effects. Water scarcity in the EU has affected economic activities as diverse as agriculture, aquaculture, tourism, power plant cooling, and cargo shipping on rivers. Europeans increasingly suffer from heat waves (globally, the deadliest disaster of 2019 was the European heatwave with 2500 deaths). Climate change poses risks to food security, worsens existing social inequalities and threatens cultural heritage.
  • Economic losses from more frequent climate-related extreme events are increasing. In the EU, these losses already average over EUR 50 billion per year.

Europe is the continent with the most ambitious climate and environmental policies, gathered under the EU’s European Green Deal umbrella. The European Green Deal is set to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, ensuring:

  • no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, Europe becoming the first climate-neutral continent (stated in the European Climate Law)
  • economic growth decoupled from resource use
  • no person and no place left behind

European Green Deal priorities include:

By working on these key areas, the EU will improve the health and quality of life of citizens, address environmental problems and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What does Europe do to protect its nature?


protected areas


of land covered

by protected areas


habitats protected

under EU law


of Europe's seas covered

by protected areas

nearly 0,000

species and habitats protected

under EU law

8th EAP monitoring report: Meeting EU environment policy targets by 2030 will be challenging

The EU 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP) builds on the European Green Deal and sets the framework for EU environmental policy until 2030.

The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) first monitoring report on the Programme shows that the EU may not meet most of the monitoring targets outlined in the European Commission’s 8th EAP Monitoring Communication.

The report takes stock of progress towards Europe’s key environment and climate goals, based on 28 indicators and monitoring targets.

Stronger implementation by the Member States of existing laws, additional measures, and mainstreaming climate and environment in other policy domains are needed for faster progress.

Black and white view from above a circular clock looking down into a square with a building on the left and a parked car adjacent.

Five yearly snapshots of Europe's environment

Every five years, we publish our flagship report: the state and outlook of Europe’s environment (SOER). The sixth SOER identified serious gaps between the state of the environment and existing EU near‑ and long‑term policy targets.

While European environment and climate policies have helped to improve the environment over recent decades, Europe is not making enough progress and the outlook for the environment in the coming decade is not positive, according to the ‘European environment — state and outlook 2020 (SOER 2020)’ report.

A pollution-free Europe?

The zero pollution action plan is a cornerstone of the EU’s ambitions to improve the well-being and health of citizens and future generations under the European Green Deal. It sets out the vision that by 2050, the EU should have reduced pollution to the extent that it no longer harms human health and natural ecosystems. This is translated into key 2030 targets to reduce pollution at source. We produced our first zero pollution monitoring assessment to assess progress towards these targets.

Good progress has been made towards reducing air pollution from industry, transport and homes — reducing the number of premature deaths linked to air pollution as a result. At the same time, Europe has been maintaining and improving its bathing and drinking water quality and reducing the risk of antimicrobial resistance. Encouraging trends are also taking place in reducing pesticide use, although the resulting positive impact on the environment is yet to be seen.

Colourful picture of a fish-shaped net with recyclable waste inside and a seafront view behind it. The sign above reads “Spiaggia libera” (free beach).

Dive deeper

The European environment — state and outlook 2020: knowledge for transition to a sustainable Europe (SOER 2020)

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