Press Release

New EEA report gauges eco-friendliness of main economic sectors

Press Release Published 02 May 2000 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
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Brussels/Copenhagen, 2 May 2000

Press Release

New EEA report gauges eco-friendliness of main economic sectors

Our new line of indicator reports allows us not only to "name and shame" poor performers, but also to "name and fame" those who progress well, said executive director Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán of the European Environment Agency in connection with the launch of the Agency's report "Environmental Signals 2000" in Brussels on 3 May.

According to Mr Jiménez-Beltrán, indicator reports like this one will greatly facilitate benchmarking of progress with the integration of environmental concerns into all EU policy areas. Following the European Council meeting in Cardiff in 1998, this integration process has been given increased attention by the EU. -- Furthermore, Mr Jiménez-Beltrán added, "Environmental Signals 2000" and forthcoming reports will enable us to benchmark overall environmental progress in all member countries.

Environmental Signals 2000 is the first of a series of regular indicator reports on the European environment to come from the Agency. Published annually and with policy-makers as the primary target group, these reports will also provide experts and the general public with the very latest assessments of the EU's environment. The reports will fill the five-year gaps between the EEA's main state of the environment reports such as Environment in the European Union at the turn of the century published last year (the next is due in 2003/2004).

Environmental Signals 2000 uses dozens of indicators to assess progress (or lack of it) in a number of different areas and sectors.

Some of the report's findings:

Air pollution: There has been a decline in emissions of general air pollutants, and less of the EU is subject to harmful amounts of acid rain. Even so, the ultimate goal of avoiding all harmful effects on health, vegetation, water and soil has still to be achieved. Many people living in towns and cities in EEA member countries are exposed to higher concentrations of ground level ozone and fine particulate matter than the proposed EC limit values. European emission reduction targets for nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are unlikely to be met.

Climate change: Total greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 1990 in most EEA member countries and are projected to increase in the EU by 6% between 1990 and 2010. In order to reach the Kyoto protocol target, emissions will have to be reduced by more than 10% in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

Agriculture: Despite greater awareness of the harm pesticides cause to the environment and human health, dependence on pesticides has not diminished. Overall, eco-efficiency in agriculture has improved only slightly since 1990.

Waste: Overall quantities are still increasing, but de-linking of waste production from economic activity has been achieved for municipal waste in Germany, the Netherlands and Iceland. Although recycling initiatives are on the increase, a large proportion of biodegradable waste is still disposed of in landfills.

Energy use: The 34% increase in GDP in the EEA member countries over the 1985-97 period outstripped the 1,4% annual improvement in energy efficiency. The end result was a13% overall increase in energy supply over the period. Supply continues to depend on fuels with significant environmental impacts. Energy taxes have not compensated for the underlying fall in energy prices.

Transport: Environmental gains from technology improvements have been offset by the rapid growth in transport volumes, especially for road transport and aviation. Road transport efficiency, i.e. the energy used per ton or person kilometre, has not improved over the last 30 years. Demand management policies are needed to de-link transport growth from economic growth, improve transport efficiency and to improve the balance between various modes of transport.

The EU's total mass of primary materials extracted from nature to support human activities, an indicator called Total Material Requirement, or TMR, amounts to 18.1 billion tonnes. This equals 49 tonnes per capita, which is significantly lower than the US figure of 84 tonnes but slightly higher than Japan's 45 tonnes per capita. This is the first time the EU's TMR has been calculated. The indicator is a highly aggregated measure for the material basis of an economy, giving a figure for all resource extraction besides water and air. Almost 40% of the TMR in the EU consists of material flows that also involve countries outside of the Union.

Looking overall at the integration of environmental concerns into key economic sectors, the indicators used in Environmental Signals 2000 point to movements away from targets in the transport and energy sectors. In both sectors, price incentives run counter to the targets. In agriculture, the indicators suggest continued intensification but also an increase in agro-environmental management, albeit in limited areas.


Further information: Project Manager Peter Bosch, +45 33 36 71 07,

NB: The report is being sent separately to all journalists on the EEA mailing list from the EU publications office in Luxembourg. As of 3 May the full report is also available on the EEA website.


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