By Alister Doyle
OSLO (Reuters) - The European Union will need radical new policies to reach goals for safeguarding the environment by 2050 after limited progress in curbing pollution and climate change, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on Tuesday.
"We need to start now," Hans Bruyninckx, head of the EEA, told Reuters of a five-yearly environmental report that said "profound changes" in technologies, policies and lifestyles were necessary to achieve long-term green targets.
The Copenhagen-based EEA said Europe -- backed by some of the toughest environmental legislation in the world -- had improved air and water quality, cut greenhouse gas emissions and raised waste recycling in recent years.
"Despite these gains, Europe still faces a range of persistent and growing environmental challenges," including global warming, chemical pollution and extinctions of species of animals and plants, the report said.
Europe is not on track to realize by 2050 its vision of "living well, within the limits of our planet", as agreed in 2013, it added.
The report indicated that most Europeans were using more than four hectares (10 acres) of the planet's resources each year -- more than double what it rated a sustainable ecological footprint.
Seas are suffering from pollution and over-exploitation, it said. Over-fishing has declined in the Atlantic and Baltic but 91 percent of Mediterranean stocks were over-fished in 2014.
The European Commission has estimated that a shift to a greener, low-carbon economy by 2050 will require investments of an extra 270 billion euros ($303 billion) a year, or 1.5 percent of EU gross domestic product (GDP) in coming decades.
The EEA said Europe could benefit economically from greener cities, industry, transport and agriculture. "This is not a threat to well-being ... For Europe this is a major opportunity," Bruyninckx said.
Illustrating a needed leap in thinking, he said transport policy now focused on ever tougher fuel efficiency standards for gasoline-powered cars. For 2050, the world would need zero-emissions vehicles run on hydrogen or green electricity.
Among areas of progress, the EU has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19 percent since 1990 while achieving a 45 percent increase in economic output, the report said. The EU plans an emissions cut of 40 percent by 2030.
Bruyninckx said 2050 green goals were not about some remote future, noting that Europeans born today will be 35 in 2050 with more than half their expected lifetimes before them.
(Editing by Gareth Jones)