Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Europe makes progress, but footprint is high

Approaches used by European countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have had considerable success. Photo: UNEP/ShutterstockEurope is at the forefront of international efforts to tackle climate change, establish protected areas and reduce air pollution, yet the region’s environmental footprint remains disproportionately high, according to the Global Environment Outlook 5 (GEO 5) report from the United Nations Environment Programme.

Despite some successes in ‘decoupling’ environmental pressures from economic growth, large parts of Europe are consuming unsustainable levels of resources.

Comprehensive legislation is helping to improve the sustainable management of waste, yet volumes of waste continue to grow across the region. Figures suggest that Europe is still not a recycling society.

Approaches used by European countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants have had considerable success; from introducing congestion tax and a low-emissions Zone in Sweden to introducing feed-in Tariff schemes in Germany. Many such policies have already been – and have the potential to be – replicated, with positive effects.

Such integrated, cross-sectoral approaches to environmental policy development and implementation has helped countries in Europe achieve long term results at lower costs.

However, a lack of environmental data, insufficient resources from public and private investors in tackling key environmental issues, combined with the persistence of traditional, consumption-oriented economic policies, are posing barriers to further progress in Europe.

The above are among the main findings for Europe from the Global Environment Outlook 5 (GEO 5), which analyses the worldwide state of the environment and tracks progress towards agreed goals and targets.

As well as presenting the state of the region’s environment, GEO 5 highlights successful initiatives and policy approaches for addressing environmental problems in Europe that can potentially be scaled-up and replicated elsewhere.

1 For GEO 5, Europe includes 51 states.

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