Sectors that drive environmental change

Change language
Page Last modified 27 Feb 2023
7 min read
This page was archived on 27 Feb 2023 with reason: Content is outdated
Key messages


  • The historic impact of agriculture on landscapes and biodiversity was positive, but modern, intensive agriculture is often a threat to biodiversity. Agriculture has a negative influence on the environment through its use and pollution of resources such as air, water and soil.

  • Fertiliser input per hectare of agricultural land is declining from a high level in the EU-15 and EFTA-4. In the rest of the pan-European region it declined strongly after 1990, but is now increasing significantly in the EU-10. Nitrates from manure and chemical fertiliser application continue to pollute drinking water and cause eutrophication of coastal and marine waters.

  • While pesticide use has remained constant or has declined in many countries, it still gives rise to significant environmental concerns. Pesticide concentrations above EU drinking water standards are found in several EU Member States, and significant pesticide concentrations in surface water bodies also occur in many EECCA countries. There has been no significant progress in dealing with the legacy of localised hot spots of pesticide contamination in SEE and EECCA.

  • The area of irrigated land in southern EU-15 and SEE has increased, showing a continuing trend of agricultural intensification. Irrigation in southern and eastern EECCA countries is causing declines in water resources and quality, falling groundwater tables, salinisation and degradation of land as well as impacts on ecosystems.

  • The production of bioenergy and, potentially, carbon sequestration in soils offer both new income opportunities to farmers and environmental benefits. However, the potential environmental pressures from energy cropping need to be well-managed to ensure overall environmental benefits.

  • Reforms of the EU common agriculture policy have largely cut the link between farm income support and agricultural production and provide a wide range of environmental incentives. The policy framework in SEE and EECCA is less diverse and not so well resourced. There is a considerable untapped agricultural potential in many of these countries that may give rise to intensification as worldwide and national demand for food and bioenergy strengthens. Most of SEE and EECCA will require continued international support to achieve a better environmental management in the agricultural sector.



  • Since the Kiev conference, energy consumption and resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been increasing in the pan-European region, despite energy efficiency improvements and an increased use of renewable energy in certain areas. This trend is expected to continue if no additional policies and measures are implemented. Developing and diffusing clean technologies and know-how across the pan-European region will go a long way towards ensuring a secure and competitive energy system at manageable costs and reduced impacts on the environment.

  • Total energy consumption throughout the pan-European region is growing and remains dominated by fossil fuels. Despite large reductions in some air emissions in parts of Europe, the energy supply sector remains a major contributor to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Current policies are unlikely to be sufficient to meet long-term climate change and air quality objectives.

  • Energy markets in the three regions are closely linked. A significant share of natural gas and oil imports into WCE and SEE come from EECCA and this share is projected to rise substantially to 2030. This increased energy production will result in new environmental challenges in EECCA.

  • A number of pan-European initiatives have been taken to develop common energy policy objectives, promote more sustainable energy production and consumption, and ensure stability of supply. To achieve a more sustainable energy system and at the same time meet the need for substantial investments in energy infrastructure, especially in EECCA and SEE, these initiatives should be further developed.

  • To cover external costs, current consumer prices of electricity will have to increase substantially, especially in SEE and EECCA. Regulatory policies and economic instruments could be used to ensure continuing access to energy at reasonable prices.

  • Improving energy efficiency, including minimising losses resulting from outdated industries and infrastructure, is central to limiting growth in energy demand and reducing energy-related environmental impacts while, at the same time, helps keeping prices at an affordable level. There remains substantial scope for improving energy efficiency in all sectors throughout the pan-European region.

  • Increasing investments in renewable energy production installations in all regions remains a key tool to meeting environmental challenges and to improving security of supply.

  • Planning new, long-term investments in energy systems must take possible future impacts of climate change into account.



  • International tourist arrivals in the pan-European region continue to grow, as does the economic importance of the tourism industry in some traditional and new destination countries. Growth is particularly rapid in SEE and EECCA, but from a far lower level than in WCE, which remains the main tourist destination globally with 43 % of the world total arrivals.

  • Tourism is still one of the main drivers of increased demand for transport, particularly the most environmentally damaging modes: private cars and, more critically, air transport. In Europe, in 2005, about 59 % of the tourists reached their destination by road and 34 % by air. Low-cost airlines are playing a significant role in increasing the mobility of visitors.

  • Coasts, islands and mountains — and in general settings characterised by attractive natural resources — remain particularly sensitive to tourism development. Degradation, sometimes irreversible, has already occurred in some popular and mass destinations.

  • Adaptation to climate change may increase the impacts of tourism on the environment. Reduction of areas with reliable snow coverage (66 % in the Alps, under the worst scenario) may result in higher pressures from winter tourism.

  • The impact of tourism is projected to increase as a result of greater affluence, lifestyle and demographic change, and growing incomes. Tourism at peak periods overwhelms the carrying capacity of some destinations. Tourist behaviour remains a crucial factor for sustainability.

  • Recent policy developments aim to increase the sustainability of tourism but there has been little progress with implementation. In particular, no compulsory targets have been set for the tourist industry.

  • Formulation of effective policy measures requires reliable and harmonised statistical information. Efforts are still needed to improve the framework of statistical data collection on tourism.



  • Transport volumes are growing more or less in parallel with economies across the pan-European region. In EECCA, economic restructuring has led to a decrease in transport in some countries, but volumes are expected to increase along with the economy over the next few decades, leading to increasing environmental impacts.

  • EECCA countries have a high share of rail transport. It is important to safeguard the competitive position of rail because of its good environmental performance. This requires coordination of industrial development and modernisation of the rail system.

  • Developing competitive urban transport solutions is a way of fighting traffic congestion and air quality problems and improving transport safety. Public transport should therefore be a key priority along with safe walking and cycling. For public transport to become competitive, cities need to be planned and developed with public transport in mind. Allocation of space for the necessary infrastructure (rail lines, bus lanes, etc.) is of the utmost importance, as is zoning that ensures that activities are not spread out to an extent where only cars can serve them.

  • Transport energy consumption and the resulting per capita CO2 emissions in WCE continue to be two to four times higher than in SEE and EECCA.

  • Energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from transport in SEE and WCE are growing rapidly along with the general growth in transport but also because of a further shift towards road transport. Progress in reducing CO2 emissions from new cars is slowing and EU targets are unlikely to be met.

  • Energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in EECCA have decreased, but less than transport volumes, indicating a reduction in average fuel efficiency.

  • Emissions of air pollutants continue to cause problems for air quality, especially in cities, with road transport a significant contributor.

  • Emissions per capita are expected to remain higher in EECCA and SEE than in WCE because of the larger share of older cars. The use of leaded fuel has been reduced, but several countries have not yet banned it; its continued use is an obstacle to the introduction of cleaner technology in the form of better exhaust gas treatment.

  • Vehicle inspection is a way of ensuring that vehicles continue to meet the specifications they were designed for. There are indications from EECCA countries that this system requires further attention in the coming years.

  • More than 106 000 people are killed in traffic accidents in Europe each year. In EECCA, the number killed increased by 22 % between 2000 and 2003, and accident rates (per passenger-km) in some EECCA countries are more than 15 times higher than in WCE.

  • The limited information available suggests a gradual decay of the transport network in EECCA. The large increase in the motorway network in SEE and EU-10 has been accompanied by increased road freight and road energy consumption.

  • Infrastructure investment with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) involvement in EECCA has shifted towards road transport in recent years, and there are indications that this is resulting in accelerated growth in road transport, especially for freight. This is leading to increasing emissions and energy consumption.

  • Problems related to traffic noise, land take and fragmentation by transport infrastructure, etc. also pose challenges, but at present the magnitude of these problems cannot be quantified. They are therefore not treated further in this chapter.



Document Actions