The latest “State of the Environment Report 2020” published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) at the beginning of December paints a very bleak picture of the EU environmental performance.
The Agency points out that the EU is on track to meet only 6 out of 35 policy objectives by 2020 and that the current rate of progress is largely insufficient to reach its 2030 and 2050 targets. The most notable signs of progress have been achieved in the areas of climate change mitigation, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, water and air pollution and waste management, also thanks to new policies aimed at reducing plastic waste.
The degradation of the natural environment and biodiversity loss remain very concerning issues and it is clear that the EU is set to miss many of its environmental objectives with regard to soil and water pollution, chemical pollution as well as species and habitats protection. This last point is especially worrying as the EEA assesses that only 23% of protected species and 16% of habitats are in favourable conservation status and that Europe will not be able to halt biodiversity loss by 2020. Only a few progresses were achieved in this domain with respect to the designation of protected areas at sea and on land.
The report acknowledges that, at this rate, the EU cannot reach its sustainability goals for 2030 and 2050. However, it also outlines seven key areas of intervention to get back on track:
-Realise the unfulfilled potential of existing environmental policies
-Embrace sustainability as the framework for policy-making
-Lead international action towards sustainability
-Foster innovation throughout society
-Scale-up investments and reorient the finance sector to support sustainable projects and businesses
-Manage risks and ensure a socially fair transition
-Build more knowledge and know-how
Following the publication of the report, Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, declared “The State of the Environment Report is perfectly timed to give us the added impetus we need as we start a new five-year cycle in the European Commission and as we prepare to present the European Green Deal. In the next five years we will put in place a truly transformative agenda, rolling out new clean technologies, helping citizens to adapt to new job opportunities and changing industries, and shifting to cleaner and more efficient mobility systems and more sustainable food and farming.”1
It is indeed true that the Green Deal, the new roadmap presented by the European Commission on the 11th of December, could be the perfect opportunity to reverse the worrying trend described by the report. The Green Deal aims, not only to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, but also to provide a paradigm shift and to build a new growth strategy to transform the way the EU produces and consumes. Under the Green Deal, the European Commission plans to present a new EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 next March as well as a zero-pollution action plan for water, air and soil in 2021.
We, the European Anglers Alliance (EAA), are very concerned
The EAA is very concerned by the environment’s fast deterioration and the negative consequences this is having on fragile ecosystems and vulnerable fish species. We do hope that the EU will be able to reverse the current negative trends by adopting the holistic approach described in the Green Deal and by putting in place some strict and measurable targets. Time is of the essence. The EU cannot do it alone, and climate change must be addressed with fast and strong actions if the negative trends for flora and fauna shall be reversed. However, the EAA fears that the climate change urgency might prompt the EU and the Member States to try cut corners notably by allowing more hydropower projects believing that this is a green solution. On the contrary, more hydropower plants will generate very little electric power but will cause great damage to the environment, and most likely make it impossible for the EU to reach its own goals and targets with regard to the water habitats and the life in and around them. Many fish species cannot survive if the water they live in heats up by a few degrees. Hydropower and dams slow the water flow causing the water to warm up while these barriers hamper or deny totally the fishes’ escape to colder waters.
Report: European environment — state and outlook 2020