Although much of Europe has been altered by human activity, Europeans want to preserve what little wilderness area is left. One of the largest areas still in its natural state is the Bialowieza Forest in Belarus and Poland. It is home to animals such as the wolf, lynx, and European bison.
EU member countries can face legal action if they do not respect environmental protection laws. Individual countries are also addressing the consequences of pollution. Pollution in the Danube River threatens wildlife in its outlet, the Black Sea. Many power plants now burn natural gas instead of lignite coal. By 2020, all EU member countries must lower emissions to 30% below 1990 levels to reduce greenhouse gases. Some countries are developing alternative fuels. In 2003, Sweden introduced the first biogas-powered passenger train. Biogas – produced by decomposing organic material is much less damaging to the atmosphere than fossil fuels.
To be admitted to the EU, Eastern European countries are expected to meet EU environmental standards. These standards can cost billions of dollars. Eastern European countries are now seeking financial aid from EU countries in Western Europe.