Term Paper: Environmental Concerns

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Environmental Concerns

In 1900, the beginning of the 20th century, the world population was 1,650,000. In July, 2007, the world's population had reached over 6.6 billion. Such an impressive population boom has brought about extreme usage of resources which has led to a threat on the possibility of renewal of these resources. Climate change, threats to biodiversity, genetically engineered food, nature conservation, etc. are environmental issues that have been gaining momentous with general audiences who are becoming aware of the importance of protecting the environment which will ultimately lead to a better quality of life for future generations. Unfortunately, things are not as simple as they sound. These problems are universal and need to be addressed through global legislation and international cooperation. Protection of the environment often clashes with economic growth which if impeded, leads to difficulties in other sectors. As a result, the true challenge of today's legislators is to find a global formula of environment protection which does not hinder economic development, and is sustainable over the long-term. The European Union has expressed its responsibility to address these problems on a large scale as they affect not only Europe, but the whole planet. In fact, even environmental issues that countries outside of the EU are facing are of interest and concern to the Union as they could, and in fact do, affect some or all of the member states. There is also, for instance, the possibility of non-EU tankers spilling oil in the Union's waters; moreover, handling global issues such as managing waste anywhere in the world, or preventing massive tree cutting directly affects Europe through climate changes. In this sense, the European Union has formulated a piece of legislation entitled "Environment 2010: Our future, our choice" that is consistent with EU environmental policy. Thesis: This paper looks at the proposed measures and strategies and evaluates whether or not, through long-term implementation, they could eventually solve at least part of the environmental concerns facing the world today.

This program developed by the European Union aims to continue the process whose final goal is to achieve the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997, i.e. "to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 8% by 2008-2012 compared to 1990 levels" (EU Summaries of Legislation. Sixth Environment Action Programme. Environment 2010: Our future, our choice). The program contains the measures that are to be implemented between 2000 and 2010 by the member states of the European Union in the direction of environmental protection. The main points of this program are Climate change and global warming, the natural habitat and wildlife, environment and health issues, and natural resources and managing waste (Overviews of the European Union Activities. Environment). The program covers the period from 1 January 2001 to 31 December 2010 and is based upon scientific and economic research and analyses which will be provided by the European Environment Agency that will serve as the European Commission's closest collaborator. The new approach that the program is putting forward relies on the involvement of both general public and concerned parties; the implementation of the environmental measures can be achieved through collaboration and well-informed dialogue between the parties. In addition, this program entails thorough dialogue between the Commission and the administrations of EU candidate states. "EU environment policy is delivering tangible results for citizens and has helped the European industry to become a world leader in a number of high-growth sectors. But despite this progress, global emissions of greenhouse gases are rising, the loss of biodiversity is not yet under control, pollution is still harming public health and volumes of waste are increasing in Europe. The Commission is committed to fully implement the current Environment Action Programme in order to make significant progress towards tackling these issues" explained the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Stavros Dimas when he presented the mid-term review of the 6th Environment Action Programme in 2007 (European Commission. The Sixth Environment Action Programme of the European Community). Today, 7 years after the debut of the program, evaluations are in order as the efficiency of such a set of measures has been doubted by many throughout the European Union. To this aim, it is particularly important and relevant to appeal to an official document which assess the state of European environment so that new policies can be formulated. The European Environment Agency - EAA - published its third report on the state of European Environment in 2005. The reason I have chosen this report is the fact that it was published exactly at the middle of the "Environment 2010: Our Future, Our Choice" program launched by the European Commission in the year 2000. The previous report issued by the EAA was published in 1999. These reports help the European Union by offering information and analyses in the form of both country by country and continental assessments that are used in policy planning and evaluation.

This report reveals that the threats posed on the environment comes from excessive land use, consumption and trade patterns. As far as land use one must also look at the issue of urbanisation which has greatly increased in the period between 1990 and 2000. In this sense, the report recommends measures to be formulated and implemented in the period between 2007 and 2013. Also, urbanisation plays a serious role in the destruction of ecosystems, along with the development of tourism which puts additional pressure on the coastal areas which have already been seriously damaged by the process of urbanisation. The main explanation behind excessive urbanisation could be found in the low access to services in rural areas which has led to young people moving to urban areas and an aging of rural population that cannot support local development.

As far as the issue of global warming, temperature in Europe could rise this century which will general serious impact on water supply, the migration of marine species and ultimately, economic losses that are very hard to evaluate at this point. The main concern consists of gas emissions due to huge transport demand. Nonetheless, short-term Kyoto targets may be met as opposed to long-term objectives which will prove much more difficult to achieve. In the field of energy demand, progress is slow with demand rising though slower than GDP growth. The largest challenged encountered in this area are related to two sectors, i.e. household and service sectors. The report concludes that as far as energy demand decreasing, the EU needs to formulate and implement long-term actions which will eventually lead to lower emissions through less energy use. The report also contains some good news related to reducing smog and acid rain in Europe. Nevertheless, air pollution is still high and causes health problems. Obligations under the Kyoto Agreement run to 2012 but the Union has already started drafting post-2012 policy for climate change and the reduction of gas emissions which will hopefully positively influence a global decrease in emission levels. This new policy will also influence airlines which contribute some 3% of EU greenhouse gas emissions. The goal of EU policies - new and old - is to accept the fact that environment protection cannot hinder European business which needs to remain "internationally competitive" but not at the expense of the environment. For instance, as a measure for ensuring the safety and accordance with EU provision of chemicals, starting with June 2008, there will be a single system for "Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals" (REACH) functioning in Helsinki, Finland. This is expected to lead to safety for EU citizens without overburdening industry with regulation (EU Summaries of Legislation. Sixth Environment Action Programme. Environment 2010: Our future, our choice). Legal measures have been taken to protect the environment, but perhaps the most difficult step in truly making a difference as face as the threats posed on the environment… [END OF PREVIEW]

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