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Europe and Central Asia

'A striking difference between Western Europe and the rest of the region is in life expectancy... During the past five years, the health situation in Eastern Europe has worsened, most markedly with a significant drop in life expectancy for men.'

GEO-2000, page 100

 Some statistics...

*  In Western, Central and Eastern Europe, sulphur dioxide emissions were halved between 1985 and 1994 but Europe still produces approximately one-third of global greenhouse gases.

*  Soil acidification, erosion, salinization and waterlogging remain serious problems in many parts of the region.

*  Pollution of land by excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides and by contaminants such as heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants and radionuclides is widespread.

*  Forest area in Western and Central Europe has grown by more than 10 per cent since the 1960s - but nearly 60 per cent of forests are seriously or moderately damaged by acidification, pollution, drought or forest fires.

*  Most stocks of commercially exploited fish in the North Sea are in a serious condition - the North Sea fishing fleet needs to be reduced by 40 per cent to match fish resources.

*  Per capita waste production in Western Europe has risen 35 per cent since 1980; whilst recycling is increasing, 66 per cent of waste still ends up in landfills.


In Western Europe, overall consumption levels have remained high but measures to curb environmental degradation have led to considerable improvements in some, though not all, environmental parameters. Road transport is now the main source of urban air pollution, and overall emissions are high. In the other sub-regions, political change has resulted in sharp though probably temporary reductions in industrial activity, reducing many environmental pressures.

More than half of the large cities in Europe are overexploiting their groundwater resources, and significant groundwater pollution by nitrates, pesticides, heavy metals and hydrocarbons has been reported from many countries. Marine and coastal areas are also susceptible to damage from a variety of sources.

Regional action plans have been effective in catalysing national and local action. However, some targets have yet to be met and plans in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are less advanced than elsewhere because of weak institutional capacities and the slower pace of reform.

Public participation in environmental issues is considered satisfactory in Western Europe, and there are positive trends in Central and Eastern Europe. Access to environmental information has significantly increased with the formation of the European Environment Agency and other information resource centres in Europe. The level of support for global and regional MEAs, in terms of both ratification and compliance, is high.

 North Sea fish stocks

Click image to enlarge

Some North Sea fish stocks are at historically low levels and most are overexploited

There has been significant success, particularly in Western Europe, in implementing cleaner production programmes and eco-labelling. In the European Union, green taxation and mitigating the adverse effects of subsidies are important priorities.

The transition countries need to strengthen their institutional capacities, improve the enforcement of fees and fines, and build up the capacity of enterprises to introduce environmental management systems. The major challenge for the region as a whole is to integrate environmental, economic and social policies.

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