The assessment highlights that while the use of renewables increased in 29 countries in 2013-2017, fossil fuels still account for around 78% of total final energy consumption in the region.
It also warns that while in 2009-2018, 41 European countries recorded a 13% reduction in premature deaths due to long-term exposure to fine particulate matter, air pollution remains the greatest health risk in the region.
The report offers recommendations to address these and other challenges.
The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have published an assessment of the state of the pan-European environment, highlighting the progress achieved in environmental protection, and describing challenges and setbacks. The report finds that the lack of progress in several areas poses a threat to the health of both people and the environment.
The report was developed in response to a request from the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy to prepare “a limited indicator-based and thematic assessment” of the environment in the pan-European region. The Seventh Pan-European Environmental Assessment covers the period until the end of 2021. It offers recommendations in several key areas to tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
The assessment highlights that while the use of renewables increased in 29 countries in 2013-2017, fossil fuels still account for around 78% of total final energy consumption in the region. The report further notes that over the past five years, marine protected areas (MPAs) in the region have grown by 66%, and terrestrial protected areas – by 22%. Yet, overall biodiversity loss continues to occur. It also warns that while in 2009-2018, 41 European countries recorded a 13% reduction in premature deaths due to long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), air pollution remains the greatest health risk in the region.
To address these challenges, the report calls for, inter alia:
- greater efforts to tackle air pollution;
- curbing the rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by eliminating or reforming harmful subsidies and incentives and developing effective incentives to deepen decarbonization by shifting promotion of investments towards renewable energy;
- enhanced cooperation to address water challenges;
- concerted action to preserve threatened land and marine ecosystems;
- tackling growing waste and resource use by promoting a circular and a more efficient economy;
- strengthening disaster resilience;
- green finance and public spending on environmental protection;
- placing sustainability at the heart of infrastructure development; and
- using education for sustainable development and a shared data system to strengthen environmental governance.
“[T]he UN has developed multiple tools and approaches to cut pollution, step-up environmental protection, reduce resource use and foster the shift to a circular economy. Their implementation must be significantly accelerated,” said UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova.
The assessment was presented at the 9th Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference – the UN’s highest body on environmental policy in the pan-European region, which comprises 54 countries across the EU, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.
The Conference ran from 5-7 October 2022. Taking place in Nicosia, it was hosted by the Government of Cyprus, with support from the UNECE, in cooperation with UNEP, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and other partners. At its conclusion, ministers issued a declaration affirming countries’ commitment to transition to a green economy with sustainable infrastructure at its core, calling on countries to join and commit actions under the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, and underlining the need for more and stronger education for sustainable development. [Publication: Europe’s Environment: The Seventh Pan-European Environmental Assessment] [Publication Landing Page] [UN News Story] [UNEP Press Release]