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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Europe's energy use still rising
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

Matterhorn at dawn   AP
Glacier loss proves climate change is increasing, the EEA says
The countries of Europe are not keeping their promises on the environment, the European Environment Agency believes.

The agency, a European Union body, says the latest trends show growing evidence of climate change, on land and at sea. It says there are also worrying levels of urban air pollution and agricultural contamination of water, and increasing amounts of packaging and other waste.

The agency calls in its report, EEA Signals 2004, for more use of market-based instruments to change behaviour.

Hard choices

The report says the evidence of climate change comes from receding glaciers, disturbance of marine species, and rising energy consumption.

It says ways to tackle this include increasing energy efficiency, greater use of renewable energy, and "rethinking options for transport" - something for which politicians in many countries have shown little stomach.

Dustmen and lorry   PA
Europe's waste problem will become unmanageable, the agency thinks
The report says the number of weather- and climate-related disasters in Europe during the 1990s was double the figure of the previous decade.

It says their average cost "is conservatively estimated at around 10bn euros (6.7bn) per year and rising".

The agency's executive director, Professor Jacqueline McGlade, said: "Such figures suggest that managing Europe's natural resources is increasingly important for ensuring the viability of Europe's economic and social capital.

Wasted expenditure

"This is money that could otherwise be spent in productive ways, for example to promote competitiveness and innovation, which are defining conditions for delivering sustainable economic growth."

Other findings in the report include:

  • nitrate pollution from farming is continuing, and there is evidence that consumers are paying most of the clean-up costs for drinking water
  • much of the continent's urban population is still exposed to air pollution above health protection levels, with low-level ozone and particulates the main concerns
  • the area of built-up land is growing much faster than the population
  • packaging waste is rising, and is projected to continue doing so; "overall trends in waste generation are unsustainable and current policy tools inadequate".
Professor McGlade said the report showed the need for more progress in managing the environmental impacts of agriculture, transport and energy in particular, and for influencing the behaviour of consumers.

She urged a greater use of market-based instruments to manage demand and incorporate "external" costs into prices, and said environmentally-targeted subsidies and innovation were also important.

The EEA's 31 members are the 25 EU states, the three EU candidate countries - Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey - and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Membership negotiations are under way with Switzerland.

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