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Europe’s Ecological Footprint

Consumption patterns in Europe continue to have negative impacts on ecosystems within Europe and beyond, according to the new fiveyear State of the Environment Report of the European Environment Agency (EEA 2005a). Water supplies, soils, biodiversity, air quality and climate are listed among the most threatened resources.

The report stresses that the price of goods and services that Europeans consume seldom account for the full environmental and social costs of their production, distribution, use and disposal (EEA 2005a). Studies of overall resource demands, such as estimates of the region’s ecological footprint (Box 1) suggest that European policy has not yet struck the right balance between economic growth, prosperity and protection of the environment (WWF 2005a, Van Vuuren and Bouwman 2005, EEA 2005a). The sheer size of Europe’s ecological footprint should arouse concern among policy-makers and the public.

The longer corrective action is postponed, the higher the investment that will be required in future, and the greater the risk that critical ecosystems will be damaged beyond recovery (WWF 2005a).

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