by G.Errico with Silvana Rivella
MONACO. Poor air quality, climate change, unhealthy lifestyles and disconnection between people and the environment are increasingly affecting human health in the region, is the last evaluation Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) for the pan -european region, elaborated by the program for the United Nations Environment and the United Nations economic Commission for Europe with the support of the European Environment Agency (EEA) in Batumi, Georgia. Air pollution is now the biggest health risk in the region, with over 95% of Europe’s urban population exposed to levels above World Health Organization guidelines, for example. More than 500,000 premature deaths in the region are attributable to outdoor air quality, and 100,000 for the indoor air quality in 2012. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to human and ecosystem health and to achieve sustainable development in the pan-European region. It ‘also an accelerator for many other environmental risks. The impacts of climate change affect health through floods, heat waves, droughts, reduced agricultural productivity, exacerbated air pollution and allergies and the carrier, food and waterborne diseases. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation is continuing in the region and is mainly caused by an increase in change of land use, particularly the agricultural intensification, urbanization and habitat fragmentation. Ongoing biodiversity decline and the loss is particularly high in Western and Eastern Europe, with lower rates in Central Europe, the Russian Federation and Central Asian countries. Biodiversity is the basis of all ecosystem services, ensuring the provision of environmental goods and services, such as nutrients and food, clean air and fresh water. Competing interests for land resources are spread throughout the region. Every day the countries of the EU28 only lose 275 hectares of farmland soil sealing and soil consumption. impacts the quality of the earth to human health in various ways, through the direct benefits from food and nutrition, living and recreational environment for the optimal lifestyle, exercise and even mental health. Environmental challenges in the region have become more systemic and complex, while the resistance to these will be influenced by megatrends largely outside the control of the land, says the report, launched at the eighth Environment for Europe conference (EFE ) Ministerial today. “The GEO-6 assessment for the pan-European region – the first of its kind – shows that the transition to inclusive green economy in the region must build on resilient ecosystems, proper management of chemical substances and clean production systems, and on healthy eating choices, “said Jan Dusik, head of UNEP’s regional Office for Europe. “More cooperation and a more integrated approach is required to address these cross-border challenges, in line with the objectives of sustainable development,” he stressed. “This report provides new information on emerging environmental issues of the region and will help governments shape their future policy,” said the UNECE executive secretary Christian Friis Bach. “UNECE multilateral environmental agreements and other instruments are effective tools to help Member States to address many of these problems from air quality to water management of access to information, justice and public participation. More investments are needed in environmental accounting systems to ensure the external costs are addressed. There is the need to pay close attention to the early signals from science and society and to invest in forecasting processes to identify possible future risks, opportunities and conflicts. The common system of environmental information and assessment GEO provide the knowledge base for policy makers to act on. GEO is a consultative process leading to status reports, trends and prospects for the environment (http://www.unep.org/geo/). The EfE conference in which was launched assessing GEO-6 for the pan-European region was attended by dozens of ministers and high-level representatives. At least there are two good news. The first is that comprehensive strategies to “heal” the ozone hole have been successful, says a recent study conducted by a team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The research, published in the Science Magazine, for the first time shows unambiguously that the ozone hole over Antarctica is closing. American researchers have discovered that the ozone hole since 2000, the year in which the reduction of the ozone layer has reached its peak, has shrunk by over 4 million square kilometers. Scientists have also identified the periods in which the recovery process has slowed due to volcanic eruptions. The extension of the hole reached a peak in 2015 due to the eruption of the volcano Calbuco in Chile. These delays have not affected the closing path of the hole that is still on the road to recovery. The credit goes to the reduction of chlorofluorocarbons, chemical compounds used for the old refrigerators, in the dry cleaning and in aerosols like hair spray. In 1987, almost all countries of the world have signed the Montreal Protocol to reduce the use of chlorofluorocarbons and stem the ozone hole. Susan Solomon, lead author of the study, explains that the reduction of the ozone hole demonstrates the effectiveness of pollution prevention policies: “Now we know that what we have done to save the planet works. We can be satisfied because we decided together to deliver us from chlorofluorocarbons and we did. Now we can enjoy the positive reaction of the Planet. “More than half of the reduction of the ozone hole observed by the MIT researchers is due precisely to the decrease in the atmospheric chlorine. Ozone is not only sensitive to chlorine, but also to the temperature and to sunlight. The chlorine corrodes the ozone only in the presence of light, and if the atmospheric temperature is cold enough. Scientists are hopeful: if the chlorine will continue to dissipate, the ozone hole could even close again completely by 2050. The second good news is that 62 countries have already ratified the Paris COP2 climate change agreement for almost 52% of global emissions. They include the US and China, the main producers. As agreed in Paris, the Agreement shall enter into force 30 days after the accession by at least 55 countries, accounting for 55% of global emissions. The ratification of the EU last October 4 will allow, once filed, the higher usage and therefore the accomplishment of the Global Agreement. As recalled in Strasbourg Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, the EU executive has already presented its legislative proposal for an EU commitment to reduce emissions in the EU by at least 40% by 2030. Moreover, on Thursday 13 October 2016 Monaco Inter Expo (MIE) signed two partnership agreements, one with the Société des Bains de Mer and the other with Anse du Portier. These two major groups have chosen to support Monaco’s pavilion at the forthcoming Astana International Expo 2017, the theme of which is “Energy of the Future.” With the slogan “Reflecting the Future,” the Principality will take part on the theme of energy-efficient urban development and the reduction of CO2 emissions. The international expo in Astana will be held from 10 June to 10 September 2017.