Green organizations for sustainable future
Green organizations for sustainable future
Green organizations for sustainable future
Green organizations for sustainable future
Green organizations for sustainable future
Green organizations for sustainable future
Green organizations for sustainable future
Green organizations for sustainable future

Newsletter

Newsletter September2019

A sustainable economy and an equitable society require a healthy environment

Our planet faces unprecedented environmental and climate challenges that together pose a threat to our well-being. However, it is not too late to take decisive action. It may seem an overwhelming task, but we still have the potential to reverse some negative trends, adapt to mitigate damage, restore essential ecosystems and more firmly protect what we still have left. To achieve long-term sustainability, we must address the environment, climate, economy and society as inseparable parts of the same entity.

The change has been a constant on our planet. The Earth's continental mass, but also the oceans, atmosphere, climate, and life, have always been under the sign of change. The difference between current and past changes is given by an unprecedented pace and scale and by the factors and causes that drive them. In our new reality, extreme phenomena occur, such as storms of unusual intensity, heat waves, floods, and droughts. All over the world, the headlines point to a climate and environmental crisis affecting the future of our species.

 

The global climate is changing and the cause of this change is man

 

Let us use the expression „multiple crises” or „new reality”. The facts are clear: the global climate is changing and the cause of the change is a man. Our economies' dependence on fossil fuels, land-use practices, and global deforestation are leading to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which in turn alters the global climate. In addition, it is clear that climate change affects every corner of the planet, including Europe. Some territories face heatwaves and prolonged droughts, while others suffer more and more frequent and intense storms. People, nature and the economy are all affected by climate change.

 

Biodiversity loss at a surprising rate

 

Science is also firm about the unsustainable rate at which the diversity of life on Earth is being impoverished. Each year, many species are declared extinct as a result of the destruction, fragmentation or pollution of their habitats. In some cases, these are pollinator species vital to our well-being, such as bees or butterflies, whose populations have suffered dramatic reductions due to the widespread use of pesticides. Pollutants generated by economic activities accumulate in the environment, reducing the ability of ecosystems to regenerate and provide us with essential services. Environmental degradation affects not only plants and animals but also people.

 

Unsustainable consumption and production systems

 

The 21st century has been marked by an economic and financial crisis. Research confirms that our consumption and production systems are simply unsustainable. The linear economic model (transformation of raw materials into products that are used, consumed and then discarded) leads not only to the accumulation of pollution and waste but also to global competition for natural resources. Global networks can carry more than materials, products, and pollutants: the onset of a crisis in a country's financial sector can spread across the globe and cause economic stagnation and contraction that lasts for years.

On the other hand, it is clear that the benefits of economic growth are not shared equally around the world. Income levels vary considerably between and within countries, regions, and cities. Even in Europe, where living standards are far above the world average, there are communities and groups living on incomes below the poverty line. Unfortunately, some of these communities and individuals are also more vulnerable to environmental threats. They are more likely to live in areas exposed to air pollution and flooding and in houses insufficiently insulated to protect them from extreme cold and heat. It is not always the group that enjoys the benefits that bear the costs.

If current trends continue, future generations in all countries and income levels will face more extreme temperatures and weather events and will see a reduction in the number of species, a greater scarcity of resources and an increase in pollution. Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that thousands of young Europeans are demonstrating in the streets urging politicians to take more ambitious and effective action to mitigate climate change.

 

Another future is possible

 

Over the last 40 years, Europe has pursued policies aimed at tackling specific problems such as air and water pollution. Some of these policies have had remarkable results. Europeans have cleaner air in and bathe in cleaner waters. A large part of municipal waste is recycled. Terrestrial and marine protected areas are increasing. The European Union has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels. Billions of euros have been invested in more livable cities and sustainable mobility. The energy generated by renewable resources has grown exponentially...

During this time we have come to know and understand the environment better and it has become clear that people, the environment and the economy are part of the same system. In the twenty-five years since it was founded, the European Environment Agency has dedicated itself to connecting and developing these areas of knowledge in order to enhance our global view of the situation. People cannot live well if the environment and the economy are in poor health. Inequality in the distribution of benefits, such as economic wealth and clean air, and costs, including pollution and crop losses due to drought, will continue to cause social tension.

These facts may be difficult to accept. Similarly, it can be arduous to change established governance structures and consumption habits and preferences. However, despite a huge amount of work, it is still possible to build a sustainable future. This requires tackling current practices, such as removing environmentally harmful subsidies, or phasing out and banning polluting technologies, while supporting sustainable alternatives and helping communities affected by a change. A carbon-free economy can reduce the pressure on our natural capital and limit the rise in global temperatures. To transform our course of action, we also need to change our habits and behaviors, for example in terms of how we get around and how we eat. We have the knowledge to lead this transition to long-term sustainability. In addition, public support for change is growing. Now it is up to us to accept responsibility and accelerate that change.

 

Hans Bruyninckx

Executive Director of the EEA

Editorial published in March 2019 issue of EEA Newsletter

 

The photo was taken from the site https://pixabay.com/.

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