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The 2024 Lancet Europe Countdown report on health and climate change  indicates European governments have not successfully protected people from the health impacts of climate change. To support better policymaking  The 2024 Climate and Health Policy Priorities for Europe briefing, co-authored by the Health and Environment Alliance, Lancet Countdown in Europe, the Standing Committee of European Doctors, and the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region highlights key priority focus areas for European policy, supported by evidence from the new report. 

Preventing heat related health impacts is crucial to avoid unnecessary deaths and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases due to heat stress. With over 60 000 estimated health-related premature deaths in summer 2022, and heat-stress only increasing – there is an urgent need to address this. European countries should develop comprehensive health action plans for adaptation and mitigation at national and local levels and enhance urban planning and early warning systems.  

Reducing climate-related health inequalities should be a priority for European countries through targeted policies integrating resilience and health equity into climate mitigation and adaptation. Climate change deepens existing inequalities, between populations and among European regions and sub regions. Southern Europe is more affected for example, by heat-related illnesses, wildfires, food insecurity and drought. Also, some populations are more at risk of severe impacts such as ethnic minorities, indigenous people, low-income communities, migrants and displaced people, children, the elderly, those with pre-existing health conditions, sexual and gender minorities, and pregnant women.  

Collaboration to protect public health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across sectors is needed to for speedier and more comprehensive climate action. Beyond the health sector – energy, transportation, and agricultural sectors should consider public health when tackling climate change challenges.  Continuing with the current trajectory is not an option, as the health burden will only increase. There is a need for a shift to more sustainable- and active transport, renewable energy and healthier diets.  

HEAL’s Deputy Director Anne Stauffer calls for urgent implementation of health-protective policies: 

The health cost of the EU’s climate inaction is already too high, and as the Lancet Countdown shows, health risks are set to increase. During the next EU policy cycle, we need to see decisive efforts from Europe’s leaders on preventing ill-health and suffering, with climate mitigation and adaptation measures that recognize the urgency to act and focus on reducing health inequalities. Protecting health, preventing pollution and climate action need to be front and center of the EU Strategic Agenda 2024-29.

Access the full briefing of policy recommendations here. 

Watch the recording of the Launch of the 2024 Lancet Countdown Report on Health and Climate Change in Europe where HEAL Deputy Director Anne Stauffer among other experts discussed the ramifications of the findings. 

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