Key insights on the challenges for environmental sustainability of Europe
The overarching challenge of the 21st century is to achieve global sustainability that balances
socio‑economic, environmental and climate considerations.
Over the past 70 years, advanced economies in Europe and elsewhere in the world have achieved
high levels of human development (living well) but at the expense of poor environmental sustainability
(not within the environmental limits of the planet). As developing countries catch up economically,
this situation is expected to worsen, manifesting itself in increasing climate change, degradation of
nature and increased pollution, with manifold impacts on people’s health and well-being.
To date, EU legislation has delivered many successes and provides an insurance policy against
expected future impacts. Nevertheless, urgent efforts, unprecedented in scale, are required up
to 2030 and beyond to tackle Europe’s complex sustainability challenges. Addressing them will
need policies, investments and knowledge to work together to transform the systems driving
unsustainability, while maximising environmental, social and economic co-benefits.
It is in this context that the European Environment Agency (EEA) provides reliable, independent
and timely information about Europe’s environment to the policymakers and the public by bringing
together hundreds of dedicated stakeholders — environment agencies and ministries, public
administrations and research organisations — to share knowledge, experience and expertise
through its European Environment Information and Observation Network (Eionet).