The European Green Deal has set unprecedented sustainability ambitions for the EU and calls for transformational change across society. To realise such far-reaching changes, Europe needs knowledge for action. This means better uptake and use of existing knowledge, new types of knowledge, new ways of creating knowledge, and, in some policy areas, better data and more concrete targets, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) report, published this week.
Europe’s sustainability agenda needs knowledge for action and more concrete targets to achieve its ambitions
The EEA report ‘Knowledge for Action: Empowering the transition to a sustainable Europe’ considers the findings of the EEA’s ‘European environment – state and outlook 2020’ report (SOER 2020) in the context of Europe’s current environment and climate goals, and the knowledge needed to achieve sustainability in line with the European Green Deal.
According to the EEA report, the ambition level of the European Green Deal is unprecedented. It embraces the need to address the root causes of unsustainability. However, the degree to which these ambitions have been translated into defined or quantitative targets varies. For example, the report notes that quantitative targets are lacking in the areas of circular economy and chemicals, and integrated approaches are missing for environment and health, and for making Europe’s agriculture carbon neutral.
Achieving Europe’s sustainability ambitions requires good data and information, but important knowledge gaps remain, for example, on marine species, non-protected species and habitats, ecosystem condition, quality of materials, environmental footprints and mixtures of chemicals, the EEA report points out. Better monitoring of progress is also required in certain areas, such as the circular economy.
Europe’s sustainability ambitions require a transformational change in society and such change will require new types of knowledge, the EEA report says. Supporting decision-making will require going beyond filling data and information gaps and creating knowledge about the environment. It necessitates rapidly creating the wisdom about how to act appropriately – a knowledge system for sustainability transitions.
“We currently understand the sustainability challenges better than we understand already available solutions and their implementation. Knowledge for action means strengthening knowledge uptake and use across society to support changes at the speed and scale needed for a sustainability transition”, said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director.
Transformational change will not be achieved by environmental policies alone, the EEA report states. Instead, actions in fiscal, sectoral, industrial, welfare, education, employment, regional, innovation and research policies are needed and knowledge for action needs to be integrated across all of these areas and involve a wide range of stakeholders in its development.