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Europe needs ambitious policy to live sustainably by 2050

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Despite progress in recent years, Europe must implement more ambitious policies if it is to be sustainable by mid-century, according to the European environment sate and outlook 2015 report from the European Environment Agency (EEA). 

The five-yearly assessment argues that progress has been made, with Europeans enjoying cleaner air and water, less waste being sent to landfill and more resources being recycled today. However, the EEA adds Europe “remains a long way” from achieving the objective of living within the limits of the planet by 2050, with climate change and biodiversity loss remaining major threats.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA executive director, said, “Our analysis shows that European policies have successfully tackled many environmental challenges over the years. But it also shows that we continue to harm the natural systems that sustain our prosperity.

“While living within planetary limits is an immense challenge, there are huge benefits in responding to it.  Fully using Europe’s capacity to innovate could make us truly sustainable and put us at the frontier of science and technology, creating new industries and a healthier society.”

Alongside more ambitious policies, “better knowledge and smarter investments” that aim to transform key systems such as food, energy, housing, transport, finance, health and education are highlighted as important to environmental strategies.

One of the issues raised in the report is air pollution, a major challenge within many cities in Europe. Unless action is taken to address the issue the EEA warns that hundreds of thousands of people will die prematurely.

The report states, “Despite considerable improvements in past decades, air pollution is still responsible for more than 400,000 premature deaths in Europe each year. It also continues to damage vegetation and ecosystems.”

The watchdog adds that continued improvements in air pollution levels are expected under current legislation, but beyond 2030 only slow progress is expected. As a result, the report calls for additional measures to achieve long term air pollution levels that “do not lead to unacceptable harm to human health and the environment”.

The UK came under fire last year when the government revealed that some of Britain’s largest cities, including London, Birmingham and Leeds, were unlikely to meet EU air quality standards before 2030.

The paper also highlights problems within natural capital, with Europe currently not on track to meet its 2020 target of halting biodiversity loss. Currently 77% of habitat assessments record an unfavourable conservation status. A “particular concern” is also marine and coastal biodiversity, which faces pressures from acidification, invasive alien species and overfishing.

Resource efficiency has also made progress but agreed policies are described as being insufficient to achieve long-term environmental goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95%.

Amongst the achievements highlighted in the report are greenhouse gas emissions decreasing by 19% since 1990 despite a 45% increase in economic output, the environment industry growing by more than 50% from 2000 to 2011, and fresh water quality improving in recent years.

Photo: European Environment Agency

Further reading:

Decline of UK’s natural environment ‘costly’ to economy and wellbeing

Natural capital committee calls for economic value on nature

Government rejects MPs’ plans for air pollution inquiry

Campaign group calls on Scottish government to address air pollution

Study: air pollution affects heart beat

Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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Economy

IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”

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IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.

Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.

Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:

“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.

We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.

There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.

We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”

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