EEA assessment of Europe's environment released

Review of 44 countries finds better policies, no improvement in state of environment

At simultaneous press conferences around the continent, the European Environment Agency (EEA) today published a major assessment of Europe's environment and the challenges facing it.

The so-called "Dobris+3" report comes three years after the EEA's first assessment of the pan-European environment, requested by the first pan-European conference of environment ministers, held in 1991 at Dobris Castle in the then Czechoslovakia. The present report is intended to be key input to the fourth pan-European conference of environment ministers, to be held in Århus, Denmark, later this month.

Far slimmer than its predecessor, Dobris+3 focuses on twelve "key environmental problems" identified in the 1995 report: climate change, ozone depletion, acidification, tropospheric ozone, waste, chemicals, biodiversity, inland waters, marine and coastal environment, soil degradation, urban environment, and technological and natural hazards.

In keeping with growing interest in the integration of environment into sectoral policy making, the report makes an "initial attempt" at summarising progress towards integration in Europe. For nine key economic sectors, the report estimates the degree of progress towards integration in: identification of impacts, existence of policy actions and policy implementation.

Industry is rated most positively, with "good progress" towards quantification of impacts in both western and eastern Europe and "some progress" in creating and implementing policies. The energy and fisheries sectors also receive relatively good scores. At the other end of the scale, households, tourism and the financial sector are rated "little progress" in all three categories. Overall, the EEA concludes, "much more needs to be done to achieve an effective integration of environmental actions into the 'driving forces' of economic sectors".

The EEA's general assessment of the European environment is that progress has been made through environmental policies in reducing "pressures" such as emissions of pollutants, but that this "has not led to an overall improvement in the quality" of the environment.

In many cases, and especially nature protection, transport and agriculture, the "scale of measures" so far taken has been "too limited," the EEA says. In others, such as ozone depletion and eutrophication, natural time delays mean that the environment has yet to show a positive response to emission reductions already achieved.

Transport and agriculture are identified as "key causes of many of Europe's environmental problems," and the root of growing pressures on the environment. For transport "more than in any other sector," the EEA says, "environmental policies are failing to keep up with growth". Industry, on the other hand, is credited with a reduced contribution to major environmental problems since 1990. In western Europe, the EEA says, "environmental objectives are slowly becoming integrated into industrial decision-making". Such integration is still awaited in eastern Europe, it adds.

Follow Up:
EEA, tel: +45 33 36 71 00. References: "Europe's Environment: The Second Assessment," a summary of which is available on the EEA's web site.

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