The EEA and the industri - The State of the Enviornment in Europe and the EU

Speech Published 30 Nov 2001 Last modified 16 Oct 2014
Annual NGO's Meeting with the Commission

Copenhagen, 30 November 2001

The EEA and the industri - The State of the Enviornment in Europe and the EU

Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán, Executive Director of the EEA

Annual NGO's Meeting with the Commission

Key points of my intervention:

The EEA and industry (The State of Environment. Findings regarding industrial Projects and the Environment.

The State of the Environment in Europe). Situation and prospects.

References to the industrial sector A few references to the transport..


Industry basicly as the "linchpin" in the economic development of the European countries, despite wide variation in contribution to GDP (25% in EU countries @ 50%, in the 90s, in C & E countries),and is and will be one of the driving forces for pressures in the environment (But relatively reduced pressure compared to transport. although still critical, mainly in what concerns Chemicals and Risk.).

Industry facing increasing challenges in its struggle to make profit under market economy conditions; competition at all levels in the globalisation of economy (favoured by non-sustainable transport, no internationalisation of external costs in market prices), stricter and not enough environmental regulation and standard and bigger demands on environmental quality/performance on processes, products and services by more environmentally conscious customers.

Many of those challenges could and should be changed and are changed in many countries from possible/potential burden to sure opportunities. The question is how to change course, how to know and adjust to the new conditions, to share the benefits of the progress towards sustainable developement. To identify the new goals and to target them in an effective way and, above all, to reach them in an efficient way, at lower costs (i.e. environmental costs). The access to relevant and reliable (environmental) information will be paramount, in particular for SME that are supposed to be main actors in the progress towards SD.


The goal of the EEA is well defined in the Regulation establishing the EEA and aiming at setting up the EIONET To provide the EU and Member States objective, reliable and comparable information at European level enabling them to take the requisite measures to protect the environment, to assess the results of such measures and ensure that the public is properly informed about the state of the environment" with a view "to achieving the aims of environmental protection and improvement laid down by the Treaty and by successive action programmes on the environment".

The EEA should provide the decision-making and public information/participation process with BAT to enable informed/best decision being taken and implemented at all levels and by/with the different agents' (shared responsibility) participation.

That means the EEA is also supporting the economic agents and industry effective and efficient environmental action. Benefiting from the general programmes, projects, products, services of the EEA: monitoring, data banks (media sources) reporting and policy analysis of situation and trends relevant or of interest for the related sectors and of targeted products and service (specific support). Demand driven, result driven - users targeted products and services.

Products and Services. General

Building up the network - and The Topic Centres

Reports (Eur + EU) and Monographs (Capacity building).

Situation and trends. Reference

Data and Information Banks. Media/Source oriented.

Specific support

The specific support consists of exploiting existing information and making it accessible in a rational and organised way. By being relevant and best available information it can help the industry to implement EU policies. We expect to do this by producing structured and well targeted information on best practices, best technologies and experiences in key areas such as Life Cycle Assessment, Risk Assessment, Clean and Best Available Technologies, Eco-Auditing, Environmental profiles, Corporate Environmental Reports, Environmental Impact Assessment, Eco-labeling and Sustainable Development

In order to achieve this goal, EEA will in the short term support the establishment of information pools and clearinghouses in the area of management tools, thereby satisfying the needs of tools to handle uncertainties and the precautionary principle, expressed by the industry, by NGOs and by the public. At the initial stage the Agency will follow and support measures directed towards a better access to information on this area. Perhaps, on a second stage the Agency can contribute to the development of better tools.

These actions are to be developed under the agency programme on " Dissemination and pooling of information and Know How". The Agency initiated the work on this programme by focusing on environmental management tools and technology, thus addressing the needs of the industry and, particularly, these of the SMEs.

In this context the co-operation between the Agency and the Industry can, in the near future, include the set up of joint projects in areas of mutual interest; short term visiting experts (up to 6 months) can also be envisage as part of this co-operation programme that could be established for example between the CEFIC and the EEA. This co-operation can, of course, be extended to NGO's

Now let me refferin particular to late reports on the State of Environment in Europe - mainly in the EU - of interest to both the environment situation and propects of the industrial sector

While we respond to the general requirement of taking stock on environmental data and building up our capacities for environmental monitoring, together with the Member States, that is the core of the Agency's work and demanding a big portion of our resources, we have to show that we are demand-driven and results-oriented.

We have to show that we deliver on a timely responsive base products and services required, first of all for the implementation and development of the EU environmental policy but also in supporting, as demanded, the broader environmental programme for Europe that is not only an expression of the pan-European vocation of the Agency but also in many cases the necessary approach or corolarium to tackle common problems that cannot find neither a proper assessment nor a solution under the only limits of the EU.

Common information to face common problems or problems of common concern, and to develope common solutions or at least convergent or mutually supporting actions, is the aim of the Agency and was the guiding reference for the first report on the state of the environment covering the whole of Europe, the DOBRIS assessment, published by the Agency, finalizing a broad cooperation process.

This Assessment has been a corner stone for the progress in the SOFIA Conference of European Ministers of Environment last October, where clearly the splitting into blocks, between those said having big environmental problems but not the economic resources to tackle them, and those said not having such big problems but having the resources at their disposal, has been overcome; we all have environmental problems of common concern, as shown by the DOBRIS Assessment and, as confirmed in Sofia in relation to sustainable development. We are all countries in transition.

The DOBRIS Assessment has been recognized in all the instances as the first comprehensive report, the best available information on European environment, the base line and reference for action and public awareness, so that from now on we only make progress.

It is clear that the Environmental Programme for Europe (EPE), endorsed by the Environment Ministers in Sofia, is not up to the findings and critical issues identified in the DOBRIS Assessment, but the fact that the programme is endorsed and that the Agency is asked, together with the so-called pan-European Network for Environmental Information (that must also be built up), to report progress in the areas covered by the DOBRIS assessment, opens new perspectives for the practical improvement of the EPE.

The limitations in the establishment of targets, indicators of performance, or concrete measures in the EPE can be progressively reduced by an operational progress reporting system assuring timely public information, awareness and participation, in particular of NGOs to restore or reinforce political will. (The possible effect of the review of the 5th EAP must not be forgotten in that context.)

For many the DOBRIS Assessment is just another exhumation or inventory of the classical European environmental problems, another catastrophic report on the environment; but, as said recently by John Kennedy from the Yale University, there is always a race between catastrophy and education, and I would say between catastrophy and public awareness. And the DOBRIS is, as recognized, about awareness or perception, which, as already said by Aristoteles, always comes before action or, I would add, before effective and efficient action.

There are many critical issues identified in the DOBRIS Assessment, that represent the burden of the past:

Problems close to the health and welfare of people, like the urban environment, air pollution and groundwater (main source of drinking water) pollution, or affecting basic natural resources, like soil, water or forest.

Time-bomb like problems, mainly instrial and related to polluted sites, or derelict industrial sites,chemicals in the environment or industrial or nuclear safety.

Problems of regional or global dimension, like acidification, sea and coastal degradation, and climate change.

Problems that are not yet fully recognized as important concerns for Europe like erosion or desertification, or that require nature to be put back in its place as a European capital and as a real infrastructure.

And maybe we should be addressing those same key problems as red flags so that as long as one remains critical, progress cannot be regarded as satisfactory. In particular, the emission of greenhouse gases; considering the disproportionate contribution of Europe to global emissions and the expected required reductions at global level.

Let me also refer to one of those critical fields: environment and health.A joint exercise between the Agency and the WHO has resulted in the production, for the SOFIA conference, of a monograph on environment and health issues in Europe. This was developed from the results of the DOBRIS Assessment and the WHO report Concern for Europe's Tomorrow. This monograph identifies three particularly significant European environment and health issues which are widespread, cause significant demage to health, and are amenable to action: air pollution with fine suspended particles (transport and industry), microbiological contamination of drinking water, and accidents (part of the wider environment-transport problem). As an example I will mention 125 000 deads and 2,2 millions injured in 93 - safety and enviornment must go togheter.

While pollution problems, including clear health risks, are predominant in many specific areas in the East and Central European countries, the often forgotten valuable natural capital of those regions, in many cases in better condition that in the West, have also to be recognized as a European common that they provide. A correspondingly large effort and commitment of financial European resources should be devoted to protecting and enhancing these ....... natural infrastructure; .a. most rewarding enterprise if conducted in an environmental and proficient way.

The pollution problems in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe, largely related to poor industrial performance and to old and decaying installations, should be considered a common challenge for Europe to renew its production system. This appeals to the use of more efficient, clean and, in general, best available technologies. Such an enterprise is difficult to apply at the scale required in the more established and highly performing western parts of Europe, but in Central and Eastern Europe there is the opportunity to develop new and leading experiences and win-to-win strategies on a broad front for the benefit of the whole of Europe. A correspondingly large effort, and commitment of financial resources, should be devoted to protecting and enhancing these common natural infrastructures; a most rewarding enterprise if conducted in a convincing and professional manner.

The Agency, provided the necessary extra resources, not very significant, are available, will soon initiate its work both to help in building up the pan-European Information Network and to develop its monitoring of progress and reporting capacities.A specific multiannual and annual 96 Work Programme, additional to the existing ones, will be established, including also the cooperation projects with PHARE countries, eventually TACIS countries, and other Third Countries as Switzerland.

SOFIA was a success in political terms, the next Conference, in 1998, to be held in Denmark should be a success in operational and practical terms; in terms of real improvement in the European environmental quality and paving the way of the process for sustainable developmentand for that the renewal of the European (taking Eastern caountries as Europe) production system will be paramount (and the SMEs in particular, but I will come to that later).

TR 2.3. ???

The role of a progressive common monitoring and information system will be paramount in that achievement, granting public access to good information and public participation and, in particular, of the NGOs; processes that were also politically consolidated in SOFIA.

The report that the Agency has produced for the EC for the review of the Community 5th Environmental Action Programme, which is now published, is a step forward, moving from the simple assessment of the situation to the evaluation of performance or progress related to such a programme. Progress towards, where defined in the 5th EAP, established goals related to the adoption of measures (i.e. legislation and implementation), reduction of pressures (i.e. emissions of pollutants) or improvement of environmental quality (i.e. ground water) or analysing trends of the considered driving forces (i.e. energy consumption, road transport ...) in relation to those assumed in the 5th action programme, intended to provide indication of the progress in efficiency (less inputs per unit of product or PNB) or in the delinking or decoupling of those considered non-sustainable trends from economic development.

Proactive policy-making requires more than the diagnosis of the current state of the environment. Early warning information systems and the monitoring og relevant socio-economic and environmental progress, trends and outlooks are crucial for supporting the policy progess and for providing sufficient feedback for policy makers and society on the environmental effects of their present programmed or intended actions.

The 5th EAP was a turning point on previous ones, moving from a list of measures to a global approach, a step towards sustainability, towards integrating environment in priority economic sectors while simultanously concentrating on some identified priority environmental problems, and calling for the participation of all the agents. Therefore, this report from the Agency on the environment had to overcome the simple reference to changes on the state of the environment as per the 92 report, that was originally annexed to the 5th EAP, and intend to be of support for the operational evaluation and review of the Programme.

The main findings of this new assessment show, that the European Union is making progress in reducing certain pressures on the environment, however this is not enough to improve the general quality of the environment and even less to progress towards sustainability. Without accelerated policies, pressures on the environment will continue to exceed human health standards and the often limited carrying capacity of the environment. Actions taken to date will not lead to full integration of environmental consideration into economic sectors or to sustainable development.


Going into more details and in relation so some specific problems dealt with in the report and concrete goals established in the 5th EAP, where the so-called normative indicators can be applied, the prospects are as follows:

That environmental targets for 1994/95 are expected to be reached for (the production of) chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and discharge of heavy metals.


The European Union is set to meet 5EAP targets for the year 2000 in the following key areas: Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) emissions; production of Ozone Depleting Substances; and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, where - despite considerable uncertainties - the achievements for 2000 can be seen as a first step towards further reductions.


In a number of other areas, the EU is heading in the right direction, but meeting targets is far from assured. These areas are:


-Acidificaiont, where widespread exceedance of critical loads will continue;

-VOCs, emissions of which are clearly reduced, but due to time lags in the implementation of directives, meeting targets by 2000 is not assured;

-Nitrates, where standards for drinking water will be exceeded less often due to substantial reductions in the use of nitrogen in agriculture, but due to the longevity of nitrates in groundwater, the targets will not be met without denitrification of groundwater;

-Waste management, where (despite current prevention policies) waste generation shows a steady increase, and further improvements in recycling will be constrained by recycling costs and the lack of markets for secondary materials;

-Urban environment, where environmental pressures (such as particulates emitted from vehicles, and wider problems in some cities), particularly those related to traffic, continue to worsen in most cities;

-Conservation and protection of biodiversity, though an increasing number of areas are protected for nature conservation, and impacts from agriculture will be reduced as a result of changes in CAP and due to the agri-environmental measures that could be further enhanced, impacts from transport and tourism will worsen.

Fourthly, there are areas of significant interest still not sufficiently tackled by the 5th EAP in terms of dealing with the accepted burden of the past. For example:


- CO2 emissions after the year 2000;

- air quality: traffic related issues;

- water abstraction and groundwater quality;

- coastal zone management;

- erosion and desertification;

- chemicals in the environment..

Again, I would like to emphasyze that the conclusions indiacte that many of the successes described above have mainly been achieved through the industrial sector. Point sources of pollution have been the main objective of regulation. Diffuse sources, associated with products and consumers, and mobile sources, have been targeted far less effectively

Economy and industry

The 5EAP - Need to change consumption and production patterns.

Up to then - Additional exploitation of natural resources, consumption of energy, increase in pollution and waste - following increased economic growth and industries develop.

The 5th AP - Instrument for "self-perpetuity" movement towards integration.

As in 93 White Paper "Growth Competiveness and Employment" new model for better quality of life, lower consumption intensity, reduced stress on environmental resources".

Progress: Sustainable production:

Development in environmental management and audit schemes (changing attitudes in corporations) -

Too early to assess added value of voluntary actions.

Energy efficiency programmes (energy intensity decreases - D efficiency + changes in structure, less basic and intermediate goods) but D total energy (0,6%/year.

Higher product standard: Ecolabeling

Pollution Control: - IPC

- Important Reduction of emissions


80-94 - Annual economic growth 1,9% EU 12 (recession early 80s and 90s). GDP 80-93: 30% (70% in Ireland).

80-92 - Industrial growth 1% EU 12 (86 to 92 - 2,8%).

Since early 70s. Production process efficiency has increased substancially:

- Energy intensity decreases. 20%} 20 years

- Material intensity decreases. 50%}

Due to: (Environment?) Terciary sector

- Structural changes (Heavy industry (iron/steel) - light

consumers industry (assembly & services).

In 80-92. Production of chemicals and pulp paper D 50%.

In general, modernisation process - small number of larger plants, lower emissions and more efficient use of raw material, but in spite of larger outputs.

The EU consumption of resources Share

1960s - 10% of pop. - 25% of water consumption

1990s - 6% - 15% of resources


In 5AP - GDP - D 2,7% - 2000

Total manufacturing industry - 2,6% - 2000

Actual forecast: Lower: GDP } 2% up to 98

........ }

(Above for chemicals + paper

Below for non-metallic manufacturing )

Sectors affected by international competition

Efficiency improved: Automation and Rationalisation

Factors leading to clean technology: Demonstrate reduced costs. Improved efficiency. Financial pay back. Environmental legislation.


Transport appears a key sector on which to focus future policies. Environmental pressures from this sector show a steady increase. Forecasts suggest a near doubling of freight road transport and an increase of about 50 % of passenger road transport between 1990 and 2010. Emissions from transport are crucial for (urban) air quality and contribute significantly to climate change. Apart from introducing further technology-forcing product requirements, the challenge is to design new transport systems including the re-engineering of infrastructure to satisfy mobility demands in a more sustainable way than road transport. Efforts to encourage a decrease in the overall demand for mobility (facilitated, for example, by the "information society") will also be necessary.


Let me finnally reffer to the trends and guidance for environmental policies: A review of the current state of action and the information gathered so far, leads to the conclusion that at this stage, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of 5EAP policies in changing future socioeconomic trends. Despite of the 5EAP strategy to integrate environmental considerations into other policy areas, most production and consumption trends remain unchanged compared with those from three years ago when the 5EAP was first tabled. For transport, higher growth has made the situation worse.

While the European Commission has been honouring most of its environmental initiatives foreseen in the 5EAP, further progress requires full involvement of all the parties concerned and improved integration of environmental considerations in all EU policies.

If the European Union wants to achieve its environmental objectives and targets for the year 2000 and beyond, (i.e. to pave the way towards sustainable development), an accelerated EU environmental policy is needed in the main areas already mentioned, like climate change (i.e. CO2-emissions); acidification, (urban) air quality; water abstraction and the quality of groundwater; habitat destruction and fragmentation; and waste management. New approaches have to be developed in relation to the degradation of soil (which is an important natural resource), coastal management and chemicals in the environment; that implies further assessment from the Agency in particular on the last issue (with the guidance of the Agency's Scientific Committee).

Tackling these issues will be a major challenge to the European Union in the coming years, since most socio-economic trends show that additional further pressures on the environment are likely.

In general, population and economic growth show upward trends, translating into more energy and material use, tourism and in particular transport. If these trends cannot be combined with sufficient (and cost-effective) abatement measures, (further) decoupling of economic growth from these trends is essential in order to be able to secure sustainable development.

As for the future development of the Agency information capacity, it is clear that we have got to continue to change course in our monitoring and reporting system if we want to contribute to changing the course of our environmental policy and our development.

To help address these issues the Agency needs to:

Establishing data and information banks that are accessible and more timely responsive and adjusted to users' needs, including also those of local communities and small and medium sized enterprises that are main actors in the environment implementation process.

Improve monitoring systems, but above all develop more capacities for evaluation and assessment of data and information from many different sources and targeted to user needs.

Developing environmental periodical reporting as a routine (i.e. yearly), including indicators, to match capacities and reporting in the economic area, for adequate joint follow-up by policy makers and the general public.

Introducing progressively in reporting, together with descriptive indicators (Driving forces. Pressures. Situation. Impact or Effects Responses), normative ones (towards agreed goals) and, above all, performance indicators (of effectiveness and efficiency, and equity), and finally of sufficiency (limited use of resources or of the environmental space).

The already published DOBRIS Assessment applying to the whole of Europe, and the recently transmitted to the EC report for the review of the 5th Action Programme (that is now a main instrument of EU environmental policy) that we distribute today to the public, are clear steps of this build-up by the Agency of an increasingly more efficient environmental reporting system to support the decision-making and public information and participation process; if we fail in that, both the Agency and the EIONET will be a non-sustainable exercise.

The chalenge for industry

In 1992, business leaders from 48 of the world's biggest multinational companies reviewed the evidence on the environment and concluded, as their book title proclaimed, that it was time to "change course", because "the bottom line is that the human species is living more off the planet's capital and less off the interest. This is bad business... No one can reasonably doubt that fundamental change is needed". However, not much progress was made since then but the challenges and opportunities are still awaiting.

Given this long lead time, further gains by 2000 are likely to result from voluntary mechanisms, self-regulation and producer responsibility initiatives and the use of economic instruments. As I reffered in the begining of this presentation this is the area where the Agecy will be focusing to put information to work

Europe created the world economy; industrialisation started in Europe; agricultural production was intensified in Europe, especially after the World War 2.; and its agricultural and industrial revolution from the 18 and 19 century are still transforming the earth and leading to increased environmental problems. Europe can also take a leading role in solving problems and an a Europe driven by sustainable environmental values could be leading the so-called third industrial revolution to enter the 21st century approaching a more sustainable pattern.

The Agency target groups are primarily member countries, but the information and knowledge should be used in the sustainability process in other European countries and hopefully in other parts of the world. For the Agency it is paramount to develop a demand driven model to demonstrate what information is needed and to provide, as far as possible, support and guidance to the appropriate policies who can act upon it. This is an operational role that certainly needs a framework.

The principles inspiring this framework and the basis of this demand oriented model are of general use for the development of environmental information including systems of interest for the business community and specifically for some parts of it as the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).


While multinational companies were assuming the burden of the past, in the future it will be the small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) that offer the required flexibility and innovation capacity to adjust to the sustainable development process and to avoid wastage not only of natural resources but also and, mainly now, of human resources. They will have to look upon enviornment no longer as a burden but as the opportunity of the future, and we all must adjust to this new business configuration.


One important aspect is to insure the participation in this kind of programme by the small- and medium-size enterprises. There a general consensus about the fact that SMEs have a major role to play when it comes to gain advantage and competitive edge through improved environmental management due to their specificity: their large number , their variety of geographical location , their diversity and most of all their flexibility of response to environment concerns. In addition, the existence of several programmes aiming at encouraging their establishement leads to the expectations of a continuos growth during the coming years.

Furthermore, methodologies applied to environmental management systems in large companies are not wholly adequate for SMEs and if encouragement of SMEs to adopt better environmental management practises is to be successful, it will need to take account of such factors. In fact many of this companies lack the human and the financial resources for RDT purposes and this results, among other things an urgent need for easily accessible and intelligent information, and this is where the Agency, in its main function as an information provider can be of major importance in not only in contributing to but hopefully also in accelerating this process.

They SMEs ar our hope, and the environmental information systems, and most certainly the information provided by the Agency, has to serve them and their needs for environmental sound management.


Document Actions