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Analytics: The main environmental problems of Eastern Europe

Introduction to Analytics

The Eastern Europe region geographically includes the following countries: Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia. But if we consider wider the list of countries related to this region may be bigger.

Analytical work is a generalized conclusion based on the study of media monitoring, reports and studies of the European Environment Agency (EEA), as well as environmentalist’s expert opinions.

This analytical work highlights 13 issues of particular interest to Eastern Europe, paying special attention to the reasons for their emergence, as well as the goals and strategies that are being needed to solve these problems.

The Eastern Europe region includes the following countries: Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia. The structure of these countries, their economic development etc. are different. Some of them are the members of the EU, and other not. That is why countries of Eastern Europe are not sufficiently represented in joint research programs of EU, in international discussions on climate change and in regional initiatives.

The main studies on climate change only cover a limited range of regions in Eastern Europe. The “green legislation” of the European Union focuses primarily on the problems facing the West European countries, and little attention is paid to the environmental situation of the countries of Eastern Europe. Therefore, to solve many issues related to sustainable environmental development, having a common past and future, the countries of Eastern Europe should consolidate to work together to develop a unified development strategy towards improving the ecology of their region.

Ecosystems and protected areas in Eastern Europe are in danger because of climate change and other stress factors. The consequences of climate change pose a threat to biodiversity on land and in large and small water objects – lakes, rivers and seas. Many species of animals and plants experience changes in their life cycles and migrate to the north and to the heights, while various invasive species have established or expanded their range of habitats and influences on the ecosystem. These changes affect various ecosystem and economic sectors, such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Eastern Europe is also affected by the effects of climate change occurring outside Europe, due to the globalization of all processes: trade, infrastructure, geopolitical threats and threats to security and migration.

Climate Change

The problem of the potential impact of the enhanced greenhouse effect in Europe is associated with an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is already 50% higher than in the preindustrial period. International strategies and international experience should be applied to limit the temperature increase, taking into account changing climatic conditions, sea level rise, effects on hydrology, threats to ecosystems and land degradation.

Current forecasts refer to increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by about two times by 2030. That will lead to a possible temperature increase by 1.5-4.5 °С.

Under the most optimistic forecasts, there will be an increase in temperature in winter by 2 ° C, and in the summer by 2-3 ° C in Eastern Europe.

Warm and wet winters will lead to floods increase.

Today’s international strategies still do not consider the possible long-term aim to limit the temperature increase maximum by 0.1 °С per decade.

European Environment Agency (EEA) in its report researched the climate change negative consequences problem. Thus, the report says that the Southern and Western European regions will suffer more from those changes, and heat and drought will be more extensive there.

It is the south and southeast that will face the greatest number of negative consequences. Those regions already experience considerable (even extreme) temperature increase and the decrease in the number of weather elements.

The report underlines that the climate change may be very harmful to the economy. Thus, in 1980 the loss resulted in by extreme natural disasters amounted to 40 billion Euro. And that is only for 33 EEA countries.

Scientists believe that the periods of anomalous heat, which have increased in recent years, are associated with a global increase in temperature, rising sea level and the melting of sea ice in the Arctic. In addition, the more and more often and intensive floods, hurricanes, and droughts occur. That all is resulted in by global climate change.

Conclusion

The region of Eastern Europe has its own peculiarities associated with a certain economic structure, the pace of development, and common past, but at the same time it is an integral part of the whole Europe. If we are talking about environmental problems, then we can say for sure that they are common for the whole world. It is possible to single out the main problematic issues pertaining to the environment that affect every resident of Eastern Europe:

  • Air, water and soil pollution
  • Depletion of biological diversity
  • Changing of the climate
  • Technogenic accidents and diversification of energy sources

Modern human activities lead to an inevitable climate change. Emissions of carbon dioxide from coal combustion, exhaust gases, overpopulation of urban areas, industrial deforestation, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, accidents occurring in factories and reservoirs, undervaluation of nuclear energy are all links of the same chain that together cause irreversible damage to our countries and to the whole Planet.

Climate change. Many studies of the European Environment Agency (EEA) and not only, say that it is Eastern European regions that will suffer more from global warming than the rest of Europe. Studies prove that the temperature in Eastern Europe will rise by an average of 2-3 ° C. And this increase already has a noticeable effect on the environment, the vital activity of flora, fauna and human health. These changes for human health are associated with extreme weather events, changes in the distribution of climate-sensitive diseases and changes in environmental and social conditions. As, for example, coastal floods and drainage of water bodies have affected millions of people in Eastern Europe over the past decade ( Romania, Hungary and others). The consequences for health were injuries, infections, exposure to chemical hazards and changes in mental health.

Gas, oil, coal have already caused and continue to cause damage to the environment. And there is another problem following gas, oil and coal extraction. Accidents happening while the extraction of these fuels that often turn into catastrophes at the national level, whose victims, in addition to nature, are people. In the EU countries, similar accidents have decreased in recent years, but this is due to a higher level of economic development and renovation of plants and factories.

Industrial deforestation in Eastern Europe has reached a catastrophic scale and, unfortunately, not all countries have banned this activity. Dozens of kilometers of forests in Ukraine, Russia, Latvia and Belarus are devastated. In consequence of such actions, a great harm is inflicted on the flora and fauna – some species die out completely, the amount of carbon dioxide begins to increase in the atmosphere, soil erosion happens that leads to the formation of deserts. Places with a high level of groundwater become bogging.

These changes we have to face and get used to. According to the forecasts of environmentalists, this trend will grow and intensify if appropriate measures are not taken. Today, it is impossible to discuss and solve the environmental problems of one country in isolation from other countries. Silencing, or not paying attention to one region, we smoothly damage the other. Harm to nature, inflicted in Ukraine or Hungary, for example, will necessarily feel the countries of Central and Western Europe.

That is why only a well-coordinated joint work on a cardinally new approach to human life, openness, adoption of effective measures and laws, participation in pan-European programs and policies, will be able to improve the ecology of the region in the long term and make the future of the countries of Eastern Europe safe.

Authors:

Alexander Kamenets, President of the Eastern European Association of the Greens (Ukraine)

Algirdas Ürgelevicius, Vice-President of the Eastern European Association of the Greens (Lithuania)

Alexandra Batiy, Vice-President of the Eastern European Association of the Greens (Ukraine)

Imrus Kovacs, environmental expert (Hungary)

Together with analysts of KAMALEX LP (Scotland)

 

When prepared the following expert opinions were used:

Dmitry Arion, Chairman of the Environmental Association (Moldova)

Suzanne Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe (Czech Republic)

Jos Dings, Director of the research organization Transport & Environment (Poland)

Valentin Voloshin, Chairman of the Public Council at the State Inspectorate in the Transcarpathian Region (Ukraine)

Vladimir Usenya, Deputy Director of the Forest Institute (Belarus)

Alexander Kovalevich, Director of the Forest Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (Belarus)

 

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