State of the Environment Report 2020: “The Message of Urgency Cannot Be Overstated,” Warns European Environment Agency

State of the Environment Report 2020: “The Message of Urgency Cannot Be Overstated,” Warns European Environment Agency

The EU is not on track to meeting the vast majority of environmental targets for 2020 – and the outlook for 2030 and 2040 is even bleaker. This is the devastating verdict of the ground-breaking State of the Environment Report 2020 published today by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
According to the report, Europe is making insufficient progress across nearly all policy areas, from nature conservation to climate action. It also emphasises the tremendous harm to human health and well-being caused by environmental degradation and pollution, and warns of a “great acceleration” of climate change. For the Green Heart of Europe, this could have an irreversible negative impact on the biodiversity of the region, including old-growth forests, freshwater habitats and high value farm lands, and disrupt their capacity to provide critical ecosystem services and sustain the needs of humans.
“The science is clearer than ever: We are in the process of destroying the very ecosystems that sustain humanity,” said Ester Asin, Director of the WWF European Policy Office.

“At the EU level, the promised European Green Deal could help turn the tide, provided that the Commission makes bold proposals for far-reaching reforms and increases the EU’s ambition on climate action and nature restoration – well beyond what is on the table right now.”

Mountain of rubbish by the sea in Albania. Photo: Antoine Giret.

Ana Maria Seman, Regional Policy Lead, WWF Central and Eastern Europe said, “Central and Eastern governments must increase their level of ambition and endorse the European Commission’s upcoming European Green Deal as an immense opportunity for speeding up action to protect the remaining biodiversity values in the region.”

For WWF, the upcoming European Green Deal needs to pass five “tests” to be a credible response to the twin climate and biodiversity crises. They are:

  1. Set mutually reinforcing targets on decarbonisation and nature restoration, based on what science dictates;
  2. Introduce flagship initiatives to transition to sustainable food systems in the EU and to address the EU’s global footprint;
  3. Focus on delivery: zero tolerance for non-compliance or weak implementation of environmental laws;
  4. Stop all financial support for harmful economic activities such as fossil fuel use, and shift public and private finance to a climate neutral and sustainable economy; and
  5. Guarantee a just transition ensuring no-one is left behind

Notably, it should include strict and legally binding commitments on biodiversity to jump start the restoration of nature across Europe, as well as an ambitious climate law with an emissions reduction target of 65% by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2040 – to be agreed well before COP26 in November. Beyond new measures, existing laws must be used to their full potential, which is currently not the case.

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This is visible especially in the number of infringement cases that the European Commission is handling for the breach of EU nature commitments, where Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries have crucial open files on topics such as hydropower development, air pollution, and for lacking accurate field data that has led to poor reporting on the status of species and habitats under article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive. According to the EEA, full implementation of the existing EU policies would take Europe a long way towards to achieving its environmental goals up to 2030.

“Much of the legislation we need is already in place, but Member States are dragging their feet on implementing long-standing EU environmental laws such as the Birds and Habitats or the Water Framework Directive,” said Ester Asin. “The Commission must apply a ‘zero tolerance’ stance by using all available tools to enforce EU legislation.”

This media release was submitted by WWF Central and Eastern Europe.

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Feature image of people fishing in the Baltic in Helsinki, Finland by Carlos “Grury” Santos.

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