State of the Environment in Europe (SOER) 2020

To those involved, it is known by the acronym SOER. This is the report on the state of the environment in Europe produced every 5 years by the European Environment Agency.  We found it under the tree at Christmas. It’s a document whose importance does not need any emphasis. We should all read it and think about it, while politicians and public servants should keep it on their desks, or rather their bedside tables.

There is nothing to be pleased about: in brief we have “missed the bus” and Europe will not succeed in achieving the targets set for 2030. What is needed therefore is urgent intervention capable of achieving in the next 10 years what we have failed to achieve in the last 40. By its very nature the report is unable to be “negative” or “pessimistic”, and so it continues to offer hope and ask for urgent intervention “to address the alarming rate of biodiversity loss, increasing impacts of climate change and the overconsumption of natural resources”.

Is this possible?

The state of the environment has worsened; overall environmental trends in Europe have not improved since the last EEA state of the environment report in 2015. Looking at Biodiversity, of the 13 specific policy objectives set for 2020 in this area, only two are likely be met: designating marine protected areas and terrestrial protected areas.

Looking ahead to 2030, if current trends continue, they will result in further deterioration of nature and continued pollution of air, water and soil.

Ah yes, the soil!

A brief look at the chart reproduced below which shows schematically and concisely the state of the environment in Europe will suffice. There is no need to read it: the three completely red lines jump out at you (red indicates “Deteriorating trends/developments dominate” e “Largely not on track”). They relate to:

Urbanization and land use by agriculture and forestry

Soil condition

Climate change and impact on ecosystems

In other words, these are the worst performing areas!

For urbanization and use of the soil Largely not on track even for 2050.

If in the words of Franklin Dehousse – professor at the University of Lieges and previously a judge at the European Court of Justice – whose comment on the French President’s remark about NATO was: “It’s not NATO that is brain dead, but the European political class” (published in Belgium in Le Vif/Express no. 47 | 21 November 2019), then the situation of the environment in Europe will NOT be able to improve.

If we put aside our scepticism, however, and look at the words of Ursula Van der Leyen and the Green Deal for Europe we could see, as the EEA report suggests, the “change of direction urgently needed to face climate change challenges, reverse degradation and ensure future prosperity.”

What we can say for the moment to the young people who are protesting and asking for results and concrete action is: “While there’s life there’s hope“.

table ES1