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Europe's environment: The Dobris Assessment - An overview

Human activities

Page Last modified 23 Nov 2020
5 min read
Human activities are the sources of pressures on the environment This section analyses eight key sectors, providing overviews of their environmental impacts. outlooks and driving forces.

19 Energy

Analyses energy-related activities at three stages - production of primary energy, conversion to derived energy (electricity and heat) and end-use - on local and pan-European scales. Environmental impacts from fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewable energy are briefly reviewed. Factors determining future energy use and projected changes are presented.

  • energy consumption and GDP have been decoupled since the crises of the 1970s
  • Europe uses 41% for industry, 22% for transport and 37% for the domestic and commercial sectors
  • Iittle improvement has been made recently in energy efficiency in Western Europe
  • energy use is responsible for air pollution, acidification, tropospheric ozone, climate change and many other local impacts on water, soil and land

20 Industry

Presents an overview of the environmental impact of pan-European industry, and highlights differences between various parts of Europe. The importance of industry as a whole in terms of emissions, waste production and the use of natural resources is examined and an evaluation is made of the 'environmental performance' of certain industrial sectors. Ways in which business practice has changed in response to environmental challenges are also considered. There is little industrial data that can be directly related to environmental impact. Production and energy use data are available from international sources and national and state of the environment reports for specific industries.

  • energy consumption per unit output in the chemical industry fell by 30% between 1980 and 1989
  • chemical, pulp and paper, cement, steel and nonferrous metal industries lead to the most severe environmental impacts
  • 25% of SO2 and 14% of nitrogen oxides were emitted by industry in 1990 (20 countries)
  • there is a trend towards reduction of all emissions from industrial plants

Electricity generation by source by country group 1990

21 Transport

Reviews the impacts of transport on the environment and provides an overview of the pan-European transport situation the regional differences. Trends in transport activities and their implications for the environment are examined, as well some underlying forces. The future outlook for transport Europe is also assessed. The main data used are drawn from international sources, especially the European Conference of ministers for Transport (ECMT), Eurostat and UNECE. Data from the scientific literature are used for illustrating

  • private car ownership doubled in Western Europe between 1970 and 1990
  • transport accounts for 25% of energy-related CO2 emissions, with road transport making up 80% of the total
  • the total emission of pollutants will increase in the next few years although emissions per vehicle will be reduced
  • Iand fragmentation due to the transport infrastructure is increasingly impacting on landuse
  • over the past 20 years in the EU alone, more than one million people have died in road traffic accidents

22 Agriculture

Analyses the trends in agricultural structure and practice which have evolved to meet demands and indicates the associated potential impacts of agriculture on the environment. Although plenty of data are available at national level, especially in the ] and EFTA countries, most are related to production, employment structure, fertilizer and pesticide use, livestock demographics and farm sizes; fewer examine the size and contribution to impacts on the environment of agricultural production and changes in agricultural systems.

Agricultural production and employees in selected European countries

  • agriculture accounts for 42% of Europe's total land area. Farms tend to increase in size in Western Europe while the importance of agriculture in the economy is declining
  • there have been consistent gains in production and labour productivity
  • agriculture leads to water pollution, decline of soil quality, loss of biodiversity and landscape changes, but it is also a victim of environmental degradation

23 Forestry

Examines the situation of Europe's forests and how they are being used. The chapter summarizes how associated activities and practices can result in impacts on the environment, and identifies the main driving forces influencing these changes The data used include traditional forest inventories as well as qualitative information on specific environmental effects and non-wood production forestry.

  • forests cover 33% of Europe's land area, a 10% increase over 30 years, most of it in the south and west while cover has remained stable or declined in many eastern countries
  • the introduction of non-indigenous species has altered the composition of forests
  • since 1965, European wood production has increased by 18% and consumption by 28%


Evolution in wooded area in Europe
(Excluding the Russian Federation)

24 Fishing and aquaculture

Reviews the nature and importance of the impacts of fishing on the environment, and provides an overview of the panEuropean situation with regard to fishing and aquaculture, with regional differences. The effectiveness of existing fishing policies are evaluated. The main data sources are drawn from international organizations (FAO and Eurostat) and examples are taken from state of the environment reports and the scientific literature.

Total international fish catch in the North Sea, 1903 - 1988

  • fish stocks are overexploited in the northeast Atlantic and the Mediterranean
  • fixed and drift nets have an impact on marine animals such as dolphins, monk seals and possibly porpoises and seabirds
  • effluent from aquaculture causes water pollution
  • the introduction of exotic species through aquaculture may compete with or replace native species

25 Tourism and recreation

Presents an overview of the pan-European situation with regard to tourism and recreation and highlights local differences. The impacts of tourism and recreation are assessed in six key settings: protected areas; rural zones; mountains; coastal areas; cities and heritage sites; and theme and leisure parks. General trends are presented using data from the World Tourism Organization, but since tourism statistics do not adequately reflect the pressures of tourism and recreation on the environment, a case-by-case approach using national or local data is adopted.

  • tourism is one of the most important social and economic activities in the EU
  • its impacts are exacerbated by the concentration of tourist activity into short holiday seasons and relatively small areas
  • the environmental impacts from skiing are considerable, especially in the Alps which receives 100 million tourists per year
  • the coastal Mediterranean received 157 million tourists in 1990
  • urban-based tourism is gaining popularity

26 Households

Reviews the environmental impacts of households in terms o resource use and emissions, assesses underlying driving force and evaluates possible control measures. Data relating households directly to the environment are not available. Socioeconomic data are available from international organizations such as Eurostat. Case studies using national data are used to help create a more complete picture.

  • consumption by households accounts for 70% of industrial production in Europe
  • an increase in the number of households combined with a reduction in their size is leading to increased demand for resources
  • western European households now own on average at least one car each, causing significant environmental disruption
  • the volume of waste from households continues to increase, and although 50% of household waste could be recycled, less than 10% is actually collected for recycling
  • European households account for approximately 19% of total water supplied for all purposes, and this fraction is increasing

European household sizes, 1980-90(Euromonitor)



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