How can the EU meet its environmental targets for 2050?

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Just before Christmas the EEA released ‘The European Environment – state and outlook 2020’.

The flagship report provides an in depth analysis of the environment and climate situation in Europe, as well as some pathways for improvement. The report hits us at first with a bleak warning:

“…the current rate of progress will not be sufficient to meet 2030 and 2050 climate and energy targets.”

But not to worry! Decision makers are then provided with a set of realistic and concrete recommendations to ensure timely and effective change.

No time to read the report? We summarise below its key messages.

What is the situation?

The 7th Environment Action Programme of the EU, which has been guiding Environmental policies from 2013, is based on the ambition that by 2050 we would be ‘living well, within the limits of our planet’.

While there has been good advances in reducing environmental pressures (e.g. reducing emissions of air pollutants), the EEA publication reports that progress has been slower in protecting biodiversity, ecosystems, and by extension human health and well-being.

What can policymakers do?

To rectify this trend, The European Environment – state and outlook 2020 provides decision makers with the following set of recommendations:

  1. Strengthening policy implementation, integration and coherence.
  2. Developing more systemic, long-term policy frameworks and binding targets.
  3. Leading international action towards Sustainability.
  4. Fostering innovation throughout society.
  5. Scaling up investments and reorienting finance.
  6. Managing risks and ensuring a socially fair Transition.
  7. Linking knowledge with action.

What does this mean?

This means that to be successful, environmental goals will need to be better integrated into all sectors. This alignment of policy objectives could be achieved for example by using the Sustainable Development Goals as an overarching framework for developing policy strategies.

Successful implementation will require mobilising and coordinating major investment flows from both private and public sector. This will involve incentivising and promoting green activities to raise engagement of all stakeholders. The report also suggests to make sure to engage “the financial sector in sustainable investment by implementing and building on the EU’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan”.

There is no doubt that the transition from our current situation to the one of ‘living well, within the limits of our planet’ will lead to new challenges, but also new opportunities. Major effort should be put not only into identifying those early one, but as well in approaching those using methods which are fit for a changing and uncertain future (e.g. adaptive techniques).

What’s next?

As a global leader, the EU has not only the opportunity to implement real change, but also the duty to do so. Indeed, the high standards and great ambitions that EU policies demonstrate means that these are often taken as blue prints for policies around the world.

The recent unveiling of the European Green Deal (which takes into account many of the recommendations from the report) demonstrates that the new commission is aware of this responsibility and ready to honour it.

Good communications will play a key role in supporting public policy in this transition toward a greener Europe. Indeed, communicators not only have a big part in bridging the gap between science and policy, but will also be crucial in inspiring governments around the world by showcasing the achievements of the EU.

 

Read the full report here: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/soer-2020