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19 December 2019

EU Fahrenheit 451

The latest report of the European Environmental Agency puts things into fiery perspective. The upcoming environmental challenges are unprecedented, and EU members must make a paradigm shift and invest into a sustainable future.

by Valentina Delconte

Updated every 5 years, it is available in 26 languages.

Stop the presses! The “European environment — state and outlook 2020” (SOER 2020) report was recently released by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and, unfortunately, what this 6th edition portrays could move you to rephrase your “Happy New Year!” cheers to a “Concerned New Year” statement. As things are, for the upcoming decade Europe is meant to face persistent problems in areas such as biodiversity loss, resource use, climate change impacts and environmental risks to health and well-being. Not only that, but all of them are expected to be exacerbated by sky-rocketing demographic changes and rapid technological change, thus bringing new risks and uncertainties.

Still, problems — no matter how critical — are there to be tackled and solved, not to be sat and cried upon. Therefore, in 2020 Europe has a unique window of opportunity to lead the global response to sustainability challenges.

Report under scrutiny

Preliminarily, the report depicts the state of the environment in Europe by 2020, from which it emerges that Europe will not achieve the sustainability targets it had for the end of this decade. Activities such as agriculture, fishery, transport, industry and energy production in the EU continue to cause biodiversity loss, resource extraction and harmful emissions to both ecosystems and human health, stretching the distance between EU commitments and its vision of ‘living well, within the limits of our planet.’

At the EU level, only 23 % of the assessments of species indicate favourable conservation status, while the majority are declining. According to the EEA, Europeans risk having a fish-less diet in the coming decades.

Now, keep calm and read on. To solve the persistent environmental challenges that Europe is facing, a consistent body of research is looking into ways to transform the key societal systems that drive environment and climate pressures and health impacts — food, energy and transport. Most certainly, experts warn that it will be necessary to rethink not just technologies and production processes but also consumption patterns and ways of living.

In that line of (re)action, even if the current and future pictures look discouraging, achieving the goals of the 2030 and 2050 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement is still possible. The report helps in that regard by identifying the areas where immediate actions are needed to enable an ambitious and sustainable change, addressing the crucial role of decision-makers not only in strengthening the implementation of integrated and coherent policies but in building more systemic, long-term frameworks which will engage all the actors across society.

The complete report can be found in the EEA official web page and you can have a summarised set of key messages in the below video.