All key messages

All SOER 2015 key messages in a single place
Almost all European countries with an individual greenhouse gas limitation or reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol are on track towards achieving their targets.
The majority of European Union Member States expect to meet their individual emission targets for the non-trading sectors under the Effort Sharing Decision. However, for 14 countries, additional measures are needed to bring emissions below the annual targets from 2013 to 2020.
Reducing agriculture's environmental impacts requires a transition towards innovative, low-input systems. Organic production plays a role in increasing the efficiency of nutrient management and reducing pesticide use.
While there has been rapid development in recent years, in 2012 the total area under organic farming was still only 5.7% of total utilised agricultural area, with more than a 60-fold difference in the share of organic farming amongst countries.
From 1990 to 2012 there was an increase in the share of renewable energy in GIEC in 32 out of 34 countries.
There was a small overall increase in gross inland energy consumption (GIEC) from 1990 to 2012, however national trends varied significantly with consumption increasing in 20 and decreasing in 13 countries.
There has been progress in energy efficiency policy but there is significant variation in the level of ambition and coherence of policy measures amongst countries.
The world population may rise beyond 9.6 billion by 2050, despite a slowing rate of growth. Most of the increase is likely to occur in urban areas in developing regions. Growing and younger populations in the developing world, the global growth of an affluent middle class, and ageing populations in developed countries will influence migration flows, creating a mixture of benefits and risks in developed and developing regions.
Demographic trends are likely to increase global resource demand and related environmental pressures. This points to the need for Europe to persist with efforts to decouple resource use from economic development.
Urban areas in developing countries will absorb most of the global population increase, with 67 % of people living in cities by 2050. Most of the growth is expected to be in megacities, particularly slums. Compact cities are the most efficient and environmentally sustainable way to secure the welfare of a growing population. Smart planning provides for efficient use of urban space.
Urban growth is driving land-use change in Europe, with peri-urban areas developing at four times the rate of towns and cities. Integrated urban management could increase the environmental resilience of Europe’s cities, particularly in the east and south.
The pace of technological change, particularly in the fields of information, communication, nano- and bio-technologies, is unprecedented. This provides opportunities to reduce humanity’s impact on the environment and reliance on non-renewable natural resources, while improving lifestyles, stimulating innovation and green growth.
The risks and uncertainties associated with technological innovation can be managed using regulatory frameworks and the precautionary principle. By recalibrating its institutions, policies and environmental knowledge base, Europe can support better risk management, while enhancing innovation and the diffusion of new technologies.
The total area of nationally designated protected areas currently covers about 21% of terrestrial territory and inland waters, although further expansion of the marine network is required to meet targets.
Designation of protected areas is not a guarantee of biodiversity protection. Effective biodiversity conservation within protected areas also requires management with a focus on species, habitats and ecosystems; measures to tackle the causes of biodiversity loss; and coherent networks of protected areas.
Economic output is projected to treble between 2010 and 2050, although growth is expected to decelerate in many countries as they become more prosperous. Rapid economic growth has brought reductions in global poverty and increases in well-being but it is also linked to growing inequality and escalating environmental pressures. In Europe, slowing growth is straining public finances for environmental protection and increasing social inequality.
The limitations of gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of human well-being and the sustainability of growth have prompted international efforts to identify better indicators of societal progress.
The majority of countries are making progress towards meeting their 2020 targets under the 2012 revised Gothenburg Protocol. As a result, air quality in Europe is slowly improving.
Emissions of NOX, SOX, NH3 and NMVOC have decreased significantly in most countries between 1990 and 2012. However, air pollution still causes significant harm to health and the environment in Europe.
75% of Europeans — and more in the future — live in or around cities. The quality of life therein depends much on the environmental conditions. Insufficiently managed urbanisation leads to an increase in 'land take', soil sealing, fragmentation of habitats and health-related issues. European cities are dense but are becoming less so, urban sprawl thus continues.
The role of cities is critical in achieving Europe's objectives for a low carbon, resource-efficient and ecosystems resilient society.
European agriculture — 40% of the land — serves societal demands for food production, pollination and energy. Long-observed environmental impacts are mixed: decreasing GHG emissions, less pesticide use but exceedance of nutrients, diffuse pollution to water and dramatic loss of grassland biodiversity.
There are fewer farmers and less arable land but demand for food is growing. Europe faces a continuous challenge to reconcile low environmental impact, food security and the viability of rural societies.
Exploitation of European seas and coasts is increasing as new industries emerge and traditional ones move further off-shore. The main pressures include: extraction of species and genetic resources, seafloor exploitation, pollution and the spread of non-indigenous species.
In calling for an ecosystem-based approach, the EU's Blue Growth Strategy recognises the balance that must be achieved between 'use' of the sea and achieving the objective of 'good environmental status' by 2020.
Europe's natural capital is under growing cumulative pressure from intensive agriculture, fisheries and forestry, and urban sprawl. A substantial volume of relevant EU legislation already exists but lacks adequate integration in sectoral policies. Mismanagement of natural capital also persists because its full value is not reflected in socio-economic policies and choices despite its fundamental importance for society's welfare. Sustained efforts are needed globally to integrate it into national accounts.
Seas and oceans act as a coherent ecosystem. Across all of Europe's regional seas, marine biodiversity is in poor condition: only 7% of marine species assessments indicate 'favourable conservation status'. Effects of climate change (e.g. acidification) add to the cumulative impacts.
Effective policy implementation can reduce impacts. For example, for several stocks the number of fish caught at 'maximum sustainable yield' levels continues to increase, suggesting healthier stocks.
'Land take' dominates in Europe, with artificial areas and agricultural intensification, resulting in land degradation, worsened by high fragmentation on 30% of land area. Conflicting demands on land impact significantly on the land's potential to supply key services.
Limiting 'land take' is already an important policy target at national or sub-national level. Balancing land-recycling, compact urban development, place-based management and green infrastructure will provide positive effects.
SOER 2015
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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