The environmental challenges that Europe faces today are considerable. European natural capital is being degraded by socioeconomic activities such as agriculture, fisheries, transport, industry, tourism and urban sprawl.
Global pressures on the environment have grown at an unprecedented rate since the 1990s, driven not least by economic and population growth, and changing consumption patterns.
Addressing these complex challenges
The EU has set out an ambitious set of policies to tackle them, such as through the:
- 7th Environment Action Programme,
- 2030 Climate and Energy package,
- Europe 2020 Strategy
- Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
As a knowledge factor, the EEA is responding to these challenges by designing a new knowledge agenda that links supporting policy implementation to an increased understanding of how to achieve more systemic long-term objectives. In recent years many of their reports, including The European Environment – State and Outlook 2015 (SOER 2015), have highlighted the vital importance of systemic approaches.
Today’s environmental problems, including climate change, involve a high degree of complexity. For example, we cannot improve air quality in Europe without low carbon transport, better-designed cities, enhanced international cooperation to tackle the transboundary movement of air pollutants, and a network of green spaces around urban areas.
Our assessments regularly underline the need for consistent and long-term policy objectives. Introducing fundamental changes to key systems can take decades. Building a clean and low carbon mobility or energy system without clear objectives is likely to hamper investments in innovative solutions.