Brussels, 4 December 2019 – The European Environment Agency (EEA) has warned in a new report that “Europe will not achieve its sustainability vision of ‘living well within the limits of the planet’ by continuing to promote economic growth and seeking to manage the environmental and social impacts.”

The statement is in sharp contrast with comments by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who marketed the European Green Deal as Europe’s new growth strategyin a speech to delegates at the global climate conference in Madrid on Monday.

The EEA calls for fundamental changes to “the core systems that shape the European economy and modern social life – especially the energy, mobility, housing and food systems”. It acknowledges the fundamental need to ensure those most vulnerable do not bear the brunt of a green transition, in addition to documenting the dire state of the climate, nature and human wellbeing.

Greenpeace EU spokesperson Franziska Achterberg said: The European Environment Agency rightfully recognises that economic growth won’t get us out of the crisis that capitalism has helped create, as well as the need to fundamentally change our systems of production and consumption. The new Commission must follow its own agency’s advice and rethink the economic system that for decades has rewarded pollution, environmental destruction and human exploitation.”

Forest Destruction in Finland
An area of forest in southern Finland which was logged by UPM, a Finnish forest industry company, in 2018 and later burned. Every year thousands of square kilometres of forests are fragmented, degraded or destroyed. The logging rates in Finland are on the rise as new pulp mills are being built.

Not only is the EEA report another scientific corroboration of the climate crisis, it also demonstrates that the ecological crisis in Europe is perhaps even graver than previously acknowledged, and brings the depths of the human health and wellbeing crisis to the fore.

The report includes a detailed analysis of the EU’s trajectory towards its current 2020 and 2030 environmental and climate targets, as well as longer-term goals. Out of the 35 indicators and policy objectives for 2020 tracked by the EEA, the EU is only likely to meet six. And looking to 2030 and 2050, things get even worse. 

For example, the report finds the EU is currently expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by only 29% by 2030, a real failure in comparison with the agreed 40% target. Emissions linked to transport and agriculture are rising. Only 16% of habitats important for biodiversity assessed are sufficiently protected. The health of 20% of the EU’s urban population is at risk due to air pollution that exceeds European safety limits. 

Commenting on the EU’s failure to meet its own targets, Greenpeace EU spokesperson Franziska Achterberg said: “Since the release of the IPCC’s 1.5°C special report, there have been dozens of scientific studies demonstrating just how much we are destroying the climate, our planet and the life that depends on it, including ourselves. This new report is yet one more. In the EEA’s own words ‘Now is the time to act.’ ”

On 11 December, the new European Commission is expected to announce its plans for the European Green Deal. A draft of the plan was leaked last week and decried by environmental organisations as inadequate.

Franziska Achterberg – Greenpeace European Green Deal spokesperson: +32 (0) 498 36 24 03, [email protected]
Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 2 274 1911, [email protected]

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