You may have noticed social media is today awash with tweets, pictures and video highlighting Earth Day.
It is marked each April 22 and attempts to raise global awareness of the need for environmental protection.
Euronews spoke to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) to find out five of today’s most important green priorities for Europe.
- Air pollution
In Europe’s cities, more than 90% of people are exposed to levels of air pollution above the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended levels.
The costs of pollution are up to 940 billion euros a year, according to EEB, including 15bn euros from lost work days and 4bn in healthcare costs.
“We have seen an improvement since the 1970s but we are nowhere near the WHO guidelines,” said EEB spokesman Sébastien Pant. “We’re not on course to achieve them by 2030, either.
“We are seeing cities are realising they have to do something about it. But at national level governments are more reticent and that creates a problem.”
- Tackling climate change and improving energy security
EEB spokesman Sébastien Pant said: “We have got a big conference on this coming up at the end of the year in Paris and it’s very important we get the globally-binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions.
“We see the European Union is not doing enough. It could do more on energy security by becoming less reliant on Russia and improving energy efficiency.
“The best way of tackling climate change is to fight energy consumption.”
- Avoiding harmful international trade agreements
The EEB says it is principally concerned over the proposed EU-US trade deal or TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).
It says the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism – which could form part of a TTIP agreement – would ‘seriously weaken critical consumer and environmental safeguards’.
ISDS clauses are a way for businesses or multinationals to claim compensation when changes in government policy harm their business.
EEB is concerned that these clauses would allow business to directly challenge democratically-elected governments over public-interest policy, such as environmental protection.
- Creating a circular economy to better manage resources
The EEB is pushing for a so-called circular economy, which means Europe becoming more resource-efficient and thereby reducing waste.
It cites product design as an example, explaining goods conceived today will be the world’s waste in 10 or 15 years time, thereby having a major impact on whether the continent meets its recycling targets.
It says a successful circular economy could create 72 billion euros of savings, reduce carbon emissions and create up to 400,000 jobs.
EEB spokesman Sébastien Pant said: “It’s very urgent for Europe. We need to better manage our resources. If we can create a system for example where products are better designed we can then minimise waste and the amount going to landfill.
“We think a circular economy is going to happen, there’s not much doubt about that. Not many people disagree about it.
“It’s just how quickly it will come about. The European Commission proposed something but then withdrew it, promising something more comprehensive.”
- Protecting biodiversity and ecosystems
The EEB says unsustainable agricultural practices, overfishing and chemical and air pollution are causing Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems to decline.
It says a European Environment Agency report has indicated just over half of Europe’s surface water bodies are expected to be in good condition in 2015.
EEB added all Europe’s regional seas and marine biodiversity are in a poor condition.
The bureau says good ecosystems help flood protection, water quality and air and disease control.
The EEB said these would become ‘even more relevant with the risk of dangerous levels of warming growing each year and the resulting rise in intensity and frequency of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, floods and droughts.