Environmental technology

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Europe is a world leader in eco-efficient technologies. The EU's eco-industries, which employ more than two million people, account for about one third of the global market and are growing by around 5 % a year. However, substantial barriers to the exploitation of these opportunities remain, especially environmentally-damaging subsidies and the absence of financial incentives to eco-innovate. The move towards a continent-wide zero-emission sustainable economy era depends on a combination of actions that involve all segments of society: from governments to researchers, enterprises and individual citizens.

As the oil price continues to climb and increasing carbon dioxide continues to impact on the earth's climate and ecosystems, the uptake of environmental technologies becomes indispensable to develop our economies more sustainably.

Environmental technologies provide solutions to decrease material inputs, reduce energy consumption and emissions, recover valuable by-products and minimise waste disposal problems. They enhance eco-efficiency, or in other words, 'do more with less', support the application of environmental management systems and make production processes cleaner.

There are great opportunities in Europe to make better use of the latest technologies in energy, transport and materials use. European companies are particularly strong in renewable power generation, and waste management and recycling where they have a global market share of 40 % and 50 % respectively.

Environmental technologies are also used to collect information about the environment — monitoring and gathering data to identify the presence of pollutants, changes in land cover, or to detect human health effects with bio-monitoring.

Environmental technologies have the potential over the next decade to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 25–80 %, to ozone depletion by 50 % and to acidification and eutrophication by up to 50 %. For the water industry, the challenge is to develop new and cost-effective technologies that take into account environmental externalities and energy aspects. Significant technology enhancements and market expansion are also expected for small-scale waste-to-energy solutions and the development of small-scale energy systems based on biomass.

To realise the potential of environmental technologies, greater market acceptance needs to be created. A lack of awareness of the real costs of obtaining, using and disposing of materials and energy is still a significant barrier to the wider implementation of many eco-innovations.

Customers and investors must know more precisely the performance and environmental benefits of different technologies so they can purchase and finance products with confidence that are often new to the market. To support this, policy-makers in Europe are currently discussing how to carry out such verifications of these technologies.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100