Environmental indicator report 2017 — In support to the monitoring of the 7th Environment Action Programme

Publication Created 13 Nov 2017 Published 30 Nov 2017
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This report gives an overview of the EU’s progress towards 29 environmental policy objectives. These are relevant to the achievement of the 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) three key priority objectives: natural capital; resource-efficient, low-carbon economy; and people’s health and well-being.
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Publication Created 13 Nov 2017 Published 30 Nov 2017
EEA Report No 21/2017
This report gives an overview of the EU’s progress towards 29 environmental policy objectives. These are relevant to the achievement of the 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) three key priority objectives: natural capital; resource-efficient, low-carbon economy; and people’s health and well-being.

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    Briefings

    Priority objective 1: To protect, conserve and enhance the Union's natural capital
    Eutrophication of terrestrial ecosystems due to air pollution
    Agricultural land: nitrogen balance
    Urban land take
    Forest utilisation
    Marine fish stocks
    Common birds and butterflies
    EU protected species
    EU protected habitats
    Surface waters
    Priority objective 2: To turn the Union into a resource-efficient, green and  competitive
    low-carbon economy
    Resource efficiency
    Waste generation
    Recycling of municipal waste
    Freshwater use
    Greenhouse gas emissions
    Renewable energies
    Energy efficiency
    Household energy consumption
    Transport greenhouse gas emissions
    Food consumption — animal-based protein
    Environmental and labour taxation
    Environmental goods and services sector: employment and value added
    Environmental protection expenditure
    Priority objective 3: To safeguard the Union's citizens from environment-related pressures and
    risks to healthand well-being
    Outdoor air quality in urban areas
    Air pollutant emissions
    Quality of bathing waters
    Number of countries that have adopted a climate change adaptation strategy/plan
    Environmental noise
    Consumption of hazardous chemicals
    Pesticide sales

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    Status of marine fish and shellfish stocks in European seas Status of marine fish and shellfish stocks in European seas Safeguarding healthy commercial fish and shellfish populations is one of the 11 descriptors of the Marine Stretegy Framework Directive (MSFD) for achieving GES. This objective is closely related to the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), in particular the objective of ensuring the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for all stocks by 2015 where possible, and at the latest by 2020. Currently, around 74 % of the assessed fish and shellfish stocks in Europe’s seas are not in GES, whereas only 26 % are in GES when assessing both the level of fishing mortality and reproductive capacity; this assessment does not include the third GES criterion on age and size structure of the populations as this cannot be assessed at present. These percentages vary considerably between MSFD (sub)regions — from at least 67-88 % of the stocks meeting at least one of the GES criteria in the regions in the NE Atlantic and the Baltic Sea to only one out of 27 (4 %) and one out of 8 (13 %) in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea respectively. Important signs of improvement are being observed in the NE Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea. Since the early 2000s, better management of fish and shellfish stocks has contributed to a clear decrease in fishing pressure in these two regional seas. Signs of recovery in the reproductive capacity of several fish and shellfish stocks have started to appear. If these efforts continue, meeting the 2020 objective for healthy fish and shellfish stocks in the NE Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea could be possible based on two of the three criteria (i.e. fishing mortality and reproductive capacity). In contrast, there is little likelihood that the 2020 policy objective will be met in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
    Emissions of air pollutants from transport Emissions of air pollutants from transport Between 1990 and 2015, the transport sector significantly reduced emissions of certain air pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) (both by around 85%), sulphur oxides (SO x ) (49 %), nitrogen oxides (NO x ) (41 %). Since, 2000 a reduction in particulate matter emissions (42 % for PM 2.5  and 35 % for PM 10 ) has occurred. Emission reductions from road transport have been lower than originally anticipated over the last two decades. This is partly because transport has grown more than expected and, for certain pollutants, partly owing to the larger than expected growth in diesel vehicles, which produce higher NO x and PM emissions than petrol-fuelled vehicles. Furthermore, it is widely accepted that 'real-world emissions' of NO x , particularly from diesel passenger cars and vans, generally exceed the permitted European emission (Euro) standards, which define the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions of new vehicles sold in the EU Member States. Emissions of all pollutants decreased in 2015 compared with the previous year. NO x  emissions decreased by 1 %, SO x  by 12 %, and PM 10  and PM 2.5  by 4 % and 5 %, respectively. The latest data show that non-exhaust emissions of primary PM 10  and PM 2.5 , such as from tyre- and brake-wear, make up 55 % and 37 % of total transport emissions of these pollutants, respectively.  All transport modes have reduced their emissions since 1990, except for international aviation and shipping for which CO, NO x and  SO x  emissions of each pollutant have increased.
    Exposure of ecosystems to acidification, eutrophication and ozone Exposure of ecosystems to acidification, eutrophication and ozone In the EU-28, critical loads for acidification were exceeded in 7 % of the ecosystem area in 2010, down from 43 % in 1980. The figure also decreased to 7 % of the ecosystem area across all EEA member countries. There are still some areas where the interim objective for reducing acidification, as defined in the EU's National Emission Ceilings Directive, has not been met.  The EU-28 ecosystem area in which the critical loads for eutrophication were exceeded peaked at 84 % in 1990 and decreased to 63 % in 2010 (55 % in the EEA member countries). The area in exceedance is projected to further decrease to 54 % in 2020 for the EU-28 (48 % in the EEA member countries), assuming current legislation is implemented. The magnitude of the exceedances is also projected to decline considerably in most areas, except for a few 'hot spot' areas in western France and the border areas between Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as in northern Italy. Looking ahead, only 4 % of the EU-28 ecosystem area (3 % in EEA member countries) is projected to exceed acidification critical loads in 2020 if current legislation is fully implemented. The eutrophication reduction target set in the updated EU air pollution strategy proposed by the European Commission in late 2013, will be met by 2030 if it is assumed that all maximum technically feasible reduction measures are implemented, but it will not be met by current legislation. For ozone, most of Europe's vegetation and agricultural crops are exposed to ozone levels that exceed the long term objective specified in the EU's Air Quality Directive. A significant fraction is also exposed to levels above the target value threshold defined in the directive. The effect-related concentrations show large year-to-year variations. Over the period 1996-2014, exposure increased before 2006, after which it decreased. During the past six years, the fractions of agricultural crops above the target value were the lowest since 1996. In 2014, the fraction decreased to 18 %, the minimum in the whole series; and mapping results show that the highest values have also decreased. During the past six years, around two-thirds of the forest area was exposed to ozone concentrations above the critical level set by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) for the protection of forests. 
    Emissions of the main air pollutants in Europe Emissions of the main air pollutants in Europe Anthropogenic emissions of the main air pollutants decreased significantly in most EEA member countries between 1990 and 2015: emissions of nitrogen oxides decreased by 52 % (56 % in the EU-28); emissions of sulphur oxides decreased by 83 % (89 % in the EU-28); emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds decreased by 59 % (61 % in the EU-28); emissions of ammonia decreased by 18 % (23 % in the EU-28); emissions of fine particulate matter decreased by 28 % (26 % in the EU-28) from 2000. The EU-28 met its continuing obligation to maintain emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, ammonia and non-methane volatile organic compounds below legally binding targets, as specified by the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD). Some EU Member States reported emissions that were above their NECD emission ceilings: six countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg) exceeded emission ceilings for nitrogen oxides , six (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Spain and Sweden) exceeded emission ceilings for ammonia  and five (Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Ireland and Luxembourg) exceeded emission ceilings for non-methane volatile organic compounds. There are no emission ceilings for primary fine particulate matter . Emission ceilings were set for 2010 for two additional EEA member countries (Norway and Switzerland) in the Gothenburg Protocol under the 1979 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. Norway reported emissions above their ammonia  ceilings . Emission reduction commitments for 2020 have been set under the revised Gothenburg Protocol . The EU-28 as a whole is on track to meet reduction commitments .
    Land take Land take Land take as a result of the expansion of residential areas and construction sites is the main cause of the increase in urban land coverage in Europe. Agricultural zones and, to a lesser extent, forests and semi-natural and natural areas are disappearing in favour of the development of artificial surfaces. This affects biodiversity since it decreases habitats and fragments the landscapes that support and connect them. Between 2006 and 2012, the annual land take in the European countries (EEA-39) assessed in the 2012 Corine land cover (CLC) project was approximately 107 000 ha/year. The figure for the 2000-2006 period was approximately 118 000 ha/year. In the 28 countries 1 covered by all three CLC assessment periods (1990-2000, 2000-2006 and 2006-2012), annual land take decreased by 10.5 % between 2000 and 2006, and by 13.5 % between 2006 and 2012. In absolute values, the annual land take in these 28 countries was 114 000 ha/year (1990-2000), 102 000 ha/year (2000-2006) and 98 500 ha/year (2006-2012). Between 2000 and 2006, more arable land and permanent crops were taken by artificial development than between 1990 and 2000, while fewer pastures and less mosaic farmland were taken over the same period. In fact, between 2006 and 2012, the types of land most taken for artificial development were arable land and permanent crops, followed by pastures and mixed agricultural areas.   1 The 28 countries covered by all three CLC assessment periods are AT, BE, BG, CZ, DE, DK, ES, EE, FR, GR, HR, HU, IE, IT, LT, LU, LV, ME, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, RS, SI, SK, TR and UK.
    Use of freshwater resources Use of freshwater resources Despite renewable water is abundant in Europe, signals from long-term climate and hydrological assessments, including on population dynamics, indicate that there was 24% decrease in renewable water resources per capita across Europe between 1960 and 2010, particularly in southern Europe. The densely populated river basinsin different parts of Europe, which correspond to 11 % of the total area of Europe, continue to be hotspots for water stress conditions, and, in the summer of 2014, there were 86 million inhabitants in these areas. Around 40 % of the inhabitants in the Mediterranean region lived under water stress conditions in the summer of 2014. Groundwater resources and rivers continue to be affected by overexploitation in many parts of Europe, especially in the western and eastern European basins. A positive development is that water abstraction decreased by around 7 % between 2002 and 2014. Agriculture is still the main pressure on renewable water resources. In the spring of 2014, this sector used 66 % of the total water used in Europe. Around 80 % of total water abstraction for agriculture occurred in the Mediterranean region.  The total irrigated area in southern Europe increased by 12 % between 2002 and 2014, but the total harvested agricultural production decreased by 36 % in the same period in this region. On average, water supply for households per capita is around 102 L/person per day in Europe, which means that there is 'no water stress'. However, water scarcity conditions created by population growth and urbanisation, including tourism, have particularly affected small Mediterranean islands and highly populated areas in recent years. Because of the huge volumes of water abstracted for hydropower and cooling, the hydromorphology and natural hydrological regimes of rivers and lakes continue to be altered. The targets set in the water scarcity roadmap, as well as the key objectives of the Seventh Environment Action Programme in the context of water quantity, were not achieved in Europe for the years 2002–2014.

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