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Designing safe and sustainable products requires a new approach for chemicals

The EU chemicals strategy for sustainability aims to ensure that chemicals are ‘produced and used in a way that maximises their contribution to society … while avoiding harm to the planet and to current and future generations’ (EC, 2020). Building sustainability dimensions into products’ design phase can support the delivery of these objectives. Key features of sustainable products include chemical safety, recyclability and a low environmental impact. This briefing describes approaches that are safe and sustainable by design and identifies enabling conditions, which support their uptake, and the related challenges and opportunities.

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Digital technologies will deliver more efficient waste management in Europe

Digitalisation is transforming the 21st century, affecting every area of daily life, including the environmental technology sector. Digital technologies will deliver more effective waste management regimes. They will allow Europe’s economy to recover more of the valuable materials present in waste streams, reducing the amounts of raw materials mined or imported and avoiding the associated environmental and climate impacts.

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Plastic in textiles: towards a circular economy for synthetic textiles in Europe

Plastic-based — or ‘synthetic’— textiles are woven into our daily lives in Europe. They are in the clothes we wear, the towels we use and the bed sheets we sleep in. They are in the carpets, curtains and cushions we decorate our homes and offices with. And they are in safety belts, and car tyres, workwear and sportswear. Synthetic textile fibres are produced from fossil fuel resources, such as oil and natural gas. Their production, consumption and related waste handling generate greenhouse gas emissions, use non-renewable resources and can release microplastics. This briefing provides an overview of the synthetic textile economy in Europe, analyses environmental and climate impacts, and highlights the potential for developing a circular economy value chain.

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A framework for enabling circular business models in Europe

The circular economy has become a priority policy topic in Europe (EC, 2015, 2020) and is a key objective of the European Green Deal. There is increasing interest in the potential for altering traditional business models to enable materials and products to be reused and remain in the economy for as long as possible — as opposed to being used once and then discarded. This briefing presents an analytical framework, identifying actions that can be taken to implement circular business models effectively.

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EEA-Eionet Strategy 2021-2030

Delivering data and knowledge to achieve Europe’s environment and climate ambitions

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Plastics, the circular economy and Europe′s environment

Plastics play an essential role in modern society, but also lead to significant impacts on the environment and climate. Reducing such impacts while retaining the usefulness of plastics requires a shift towards a more circular and sustainable plastics system. This report tells the story of plastics, and their effect on the environment and climate, and looks at their place in a European circular economy.

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Measuring the extent and condition of European ecosystems

Protecting ecosystems and biodiversity are key policy targets in the EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030 and the European Green Deal. EU and national policymaking require approaches to be developed to measure the extent and condition of ecosystems to improve their management. This briefing presents the EEA’s work on ecosystem extent accounts and pilot ecosystem condition accounts in the EU INCA project. Examples illustrate the potential use of ecosystem accounting results to design measures to protect and restore European ecosystems, e.g. in implementing the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030.

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EU renewable electricity has reduced environmental pressures; targeted actions help further reduce impacts

We need to invest in a green recovery to restart the economy. The European Green Deal puts climate change mitigation at the core of its efforts to recover sustainably from the COVID-19 crisis. Renewable electricity could increase to 70% of all power generation by 2030 to allow a net 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Despite multiple benefits for human health and the environment associated with the reduction in fossil fuel use for energy, increasing renewable power supply is not impact free. Concerns have been raised that renewable electricity could shift environmental burdens in ways that do not always lower overall pressures. This briefing investigates changes in the electricity mix since 2005, and their trade-offs from a life cycle perspective to help policymakers and individuals focus on areas that offer opportunities for improvement.

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Growth without economic growth

Economic growth is closely linked to increases in production, consumption and resource use and has detrimental effects on the natural environment and human health. It is unlikely that a long-lasting, absolute decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures and impacts can be achieved at the global scale; therefore, societies need to rethink what is meant by growth and progress and their meaning for global sustainability.

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Cross-border cooperation on renewable energy

This briefing looks at the challenges posed by cross-border cooperation on renewable energy. It analyses the barriers holding countries back and makes recommendations to overcome the challenges, based on the experience of three case studies on cooperation between Denmark and Germany, Norway and Sweden, and Ireland and the United Kingdom.

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Health risks caused by environmental noise in Europe

This briefing assesses the health risks due to exposure to environmental noise in Europe using three indicators to measure, monitor and communicate the impacts of noise pollution on health: (1) exposure to noise above recommended levels established by the World Health Organization; (2) number of people suffering health effects from exposure to noise; (3) burden of disease from noise. The indicators are derived from data submitted to the EEA under the EU Environmental Noise Directive and will be used to inform the development of future targets to reduce the health impacts of noise.

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The EU Emissions Trading System in 2020: trends and projections

The European Union’s energy system is decarbonising rapidly. In 2019, emissions from stationary installations covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) declined by 9.1 %. Further reductions are expected in 2020, partially because of the Covid-19 crisis. However, significant further cuts in emissions remain necessary to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The auctioning of emission allowances can turn into a significant source of revenues to support climate investments. This briefing provides an overview of past and projected emission trends under the EU ETS.

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Multiple pressures and their combined effects in Europe’s seas

Europe’s seas are overexploited. Most of Europe’s marine area (93 %) is under multiple pressures from human activities, which have reached the most remote areas. The EU’s maritime economy will not be sustainable unless it is confined to the current ecological limits of marine ecosystems. That means decoupling human activities on land and sea from the degradation and depletion of marine ecosystem capital. This briefing summarises a spatial assessment of the multiple pressures on Europe’s seas (ETC/ICM, 2019a).

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Measures to reduce emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases: the potential for synergies

This briefing presents an overview of the latest policies and measures reported by Member States to tackle air pollution, as required under the National Emission reduction Commitments (NEC) Directive. It includes an analysis of synergies with the policies reported under the Regulation on a mechanism for monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions (Monitoring Mechanism Regulation), highlighting the importance of coherence between these domains.

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Fluorinated greenhouse gases 2020

Data reported by companies on the production, import, export and destruction of fluorinated greenhouse gases in the European Union, 2007-2019

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Trends and projections in Europe 2020

Tracking progress towards Europe’s climate and energy targets. The annual ‘Trends and projections’ report provides an assessment of the progress of the EU and European countries towards their climate mitigation and energy targets. It is based on national data for greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy and energy consumption.

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Synthetic biology and the environment

New approaches to biodiversity conservation or unexpected but irreversible forms of environmental disruption?

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Delivery drones and the environment

A technology with uncertain potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from e-commerce and the logistics industry and concerns over increased noise pollution and threats to wildlife.

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Blockchain and the environment

An energy-intensive technology undermining climate change mitigation or a game changer for the governance of sustainability transitions?

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Artificial meat and the environment

An appealing innovation with highly uncertain potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enable more sustainable use of natural resources.

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