green_bigAll this week, Debating Europe will be running a themed week looking at green issues in Europe. We will be focusing particularly on air quality, climate change and CO2 emissions, and taking YOUR questions and comments on the environment to European politicians for them to answer.

Earlier this week, we asked whether air quality in the EU is really the best in the world. In general, European environmental standards are quite strict, and the quality of air, water and soil tends to be high. In the developing world, however, where economies (often based on heavy industry, manufacturing and resource extraction) are growing at an impressive rate, environmental standards are often more lax. Does this mean that environmental issues are only really a problem for developing countries?

Recently, we spoke to Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and we asked him if pollution was still a problem in Europe.

steiner-speaksYes, certainly the rapidly developing nations, the emerging economies, face significant pollution challenges. But, let us also be very clear: we still face significant pollution challenges also in the industrialised world.

Even according to the European Commission’s own reports, air pollution remains a challenge in many of the major cities in Europe. However, even if this weren’t the case, we still have the problem of the long-range transport of pollution across the planet. It never stops at the borders of a country, and it can literally reach from China to the US and across Europe. We know that countries are affected by pollution that occurs in a neighbouring country, or even further away.

You can see some facts and figures on this issue in our recent infographic.

We also recently had the chance to talk to Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment. Back in April, we asked you what skills young professionals will need for green jobs in the future. In response, Samo sent us the following:

I think everything related with optimization of products and their manufacturing process will be THE jobs of the future… The reason for my thinking is that, currently, our planet’s resources are being exploited at rate way too high to be sustainable. What we need to do is reduce our energy consumption, especially with its efficient use, and we also need to be able to reuse most, if not all, the materials that we use.

So, how would the commissioner respond?

potocnik-speaks Samo is absolutely right. A lot of our resources today are not being used in a way that is sustainable. And  we should also look at this from a European perspective: our continent is very densely populated, we are import-dependent, resource prices are increasing, and already today resources represent more than 40% of cost structures. All those things add up to mean that resource efficiency and a circular economy is not just a question of preserving the environment, but is also relevant to the core question of competitiveness and the future of industrial policy. So, he’s absolutely right.

What do YOU think? Is pollution still a problem in Europe? Or are environmental standards so high that it’s not an issue, and politicians should worry instead about the economy? And will improving resource efficiency be THE green job of the future? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

13 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar

    Are you trying to get across the idea of the level of unconsciousness of European people about pollution, or are you yourselves unconscious?

  2. avatar
    Catalin Vasile

    Yes, pollution still is a problem n Europe, for we still use cars with classic engines and the electric power comes from nuclear plants and power plants that use charcoal and natural gas.

  3. avatar
    Limbidis Adrian

    @Catalin, am putea inlocui masinile personale cu trenuri TGV, am putea sa modernizam caile ferate care sunt electrice apropo. terasamentele, totul.
    Am putea sa facem masinile electrice si curentul sa il produce m 100% din eoliene si solare daca s-ar vrea.
    Si cine ar munci la astea?
    Frecatorii de menta, puscariasii care stau pe banii statului !
    Alde Adrian Nastase care se impusca ( prefacatorie ) si scapa dp ce a RUINAT economia nationala.

  4. avatar

    How can we question the development of these (developing )) countries when we have trod the same path ?
    . (That dosnt mean we plant more windwills , or windmills even )

  5. avatar
    Sofia Hilaco

    No concordo que a UE tenha uma poltica ambiental demasiado exigente, mas que para outras regies econmicas e pases o ambiente no seja tido em considerao nas polticas e estratgias de desenvolvimento, nem seja considerado como um recurso vital para o desenvolvimento socioeconmico, mas como algo que atrapalha ou que nem existe, o que completamente rdiculo e trar elevados custos economicos e sociais.

  6. avatar

    If we measure polution in CO2 equivilants than pollution in Europe is many times higher than in developing countries. And as it was rightly mentioned by Mr. Steiner, polution doesn’t respect borders.
    Unfortunately, what seems to be completely ignored by the EU is the connection between pollution and immigration. The EU fostered mass migration from low CO2 countries to high CO2 countries in Europe is significantly worsening the global climate balance.
    When, for example, a Nigerian who living in Nigeria causes 0.5 MT CO2/Capita and Year, migrates, for example, to Germany, settles and joins the labour force there, he will add about 16 times more CO2 (9 MT/C/Y) to the sensitive global climate situation in comparison to staying at home in Nigeria.
    As Europe receives Millions of migrants every year from low CO2 countries this is a significant but neglected problem.
    This neglect either derives from a false ideology or from a lack of systemic thinking among the EU establishment.
    Care for pollution and talk about climate change seems to be only a propagande tool without any serious intention behind it.

    • avatar
      Heidrun Hankammer

      We can bring the serious intention into it by supporting and electing only those who dare to stand for it – against all the bigs (big oil, big pharma etc.) we know. Our own pressure group cannot count on money but on masses…

  7. avatar
    Dobromir Panchev

    Industrial air pollution is a major problem in my home town Burgas, Bulgaria. The air quality is being monitored during the day, but plants release most of their poisonous gasses during the night when people sleep. I have checked many times the air quality parameters at and they never show a problem, although in the morning the smell from the plants around the town is strong and visitors to town will confirm this. It looks like most of the people who live here have used to it and do nothing to change this. The authorities have no will to deal with the problem. The solution is continous independent European monitoring of the air quality. Is it possible?

  8. avatar

    I think you may be confused Dobromir, plants give out much needed oxygen during the night not poisonous gases .When we see problems in cities it is often due to high levels of illumination which prevent plants from cleansing the air in there natural way. Maybe you should turn the lights off

  9. avatar
    Bungau Mihai

    think of it this way.With no environment,there can be no guvernment .It’s as simple as that

  10. avatar
    Dobromir Panchev

    Plant means factory, not only tree. I am talking about industrial pollution from factory that produces wood panel products and is located inside the town.

    • avatar
      Heidrun Hankammer

      You are absolutely right and that’s a serious health problem that can only be solved on an european level. To prevent climate change in a last-minute-effort we need a transnational cooperation in competition and not an inter-national competition in cooperation (of the corporate profiteers from business-as-usual).
      It is us – the people of Europe – that have to force our governments to get the economies under control by empowering those european parties that work for a U-turn towards clean energies to achieve and coordinate a breakthrough of climate politics in Europe. Only than we can confront the US, China, India and the global catastrophe that is approaching us.
      We can smell it already at our hometowns and abroad…actually I’m coming to Burgos to a conference from 8th to 11th of May and will probably smell it there too.

  11. avatar

    in india in that tamil nadu a state . there many cars and buses is there so its growing as a polluted state but the tamilians will not leave this they will decrease the pollution

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More debate series – Green Europe: Themed Week View all

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.