Can we live within the limits of the planet? We are using resources faster than the planet can replenish them, creating pollution, destroying nature, driving climate change and impacting people’s health and well-being. A transition to a sustainable future will require a fundamental shift in production and consumption systems.

Less plastic, less waste, less pollution

Consumption patterns significantly affect the amounts, types and characteristics of the products and services produced or offered — as well as how they are managed when they become or generate waste. They are therefore directly linked to production and waste management processes, which are primary sources of pollution within the EU and abroad.

Both the zero pollution action plan and the circular economy action plan contain objectives to reduce Europe’s consumption. Our zero pollution report examines, among others, consumption patterns that can lead to pollution — from production processes to pollution-induced environmental impacts.

Europe's Environmental Action Programme to 2030

The 8th Environmental Action Programme (8EAP) reiterates the EU’s long-term vision for 2050 of living well, within planetary boundaries. It sets out priority objectives for 2030 and the conditions needed to achieve these.

Building on the European Green Deal, it aims to speed up the transition to a climate-neutral, resource-efficient economy, recognising that human well-being and prosperity depend on healthy ecosystems. It identifies six main objectives, covering climate mitigation and adaptation, a regenerative well-being economy model, pursuing a zero pollution ambition while protecting health, protecting and restoring nature, and reducing environmental and climate pressures related to production and consumption.

Dive deeper

How did we get here?

The environmental and sustainability challenges that Europe faces today result from decisions and actions taken over decades. During this time, the so-called ‘Great Acceleration’ of social and economic activity transformed our relationship with the environment.

The Great Acceleration has undoubtedly delivered significant benefits. Technological advancements have helped people live longer, earn more money, and be healthier in many parts of the world. Yet, in many cases, these same developments also caused widespread damage to nature and the environment.

Our flagship report on the European environment — state and outlook 2020 (SOER 2020) provides an extensive analysis.

Horizon scanning tips and tricks

The future of Europe is shaped by developments of a societal, technological, economic, environmental and geopolitical nature that interact in complex and unpredictable ways. These wider developments might be relevant to the environment and environment policies.

Horizon scanning is one of the methods used in foresight to systematically scan or review various sources to detect early (or weak) signs of potentially important developments. It can support policymakers and other decision-makers in anticipating future developments, managing risks and pursuing opportunities to help build resilience to future shocks and reduce uncertainty.

Together with Eionet, the EEA published a practical guide, aimed to foster a culture of anticipation and preparedness by inspiring and equipping practitioners across Europe to explore the future using horizon scanning.

Towards global sustainability

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are part of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015. The Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action by all countries — poor, rich and middle-income — to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognise that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.

The European Union and the European Environment Agency’s 38 member and cooperating countries are committed to implementing the United Nations’ Sustainability Development Goals, including those focused on climate action, water and sanitation, and affordable and clean energy.

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