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EU plan targets health problems of climate change

The European Commission has published a plan detailing the impacts of climate change on health and outlining the role of the health sector and the needed adaptation measures. The plan was launched as a Staff Working Document on 1st April at the same time as the EU’s White Paper on Climate Change Adaptation and outlines EU plans for tackling all emergency and health-related problems associated with climate change.

The Working Document - "Human, Animal and Plant Health Impacts of Climate Change" - estimates that within 20 years an additional 30,000 people per annum may die as a result of higher temperatures. Drawing on the Commission’s own research findings, it states: "In EU countries, it is estimated that mortality increases by 1–4% for each one-degree rise in temperature, meaning that heat related mortality could rise by 30 000 deaths per year by the 2030s and by 50 000 to 110 000 deaths per year by the 2080s." The document was released to coincide with the publication of the White Paper "Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action Human, Animal and Plant Health Impacts of Climate Change" which provides a framework for adaptation measures and policies to reduce the vulnerability of the European Union to the impacts of climate change.

The emphasis of the Staff Working Document lies with key problems created by climate change that effect human health, and explains the changes which will be implemented to adapt responses. Further to this, it describes the systems currently in place and the necessary steps that Member States will have to take to effectively tackle this problem with the tools and funding available. In summary, it points to the following;

> Strengthening cooperation between the services health of human, animals, plants;

> Developing response plans in the event of extreme weather conditions;

> Gathering more reliable information on the risks of climate change whilst maintaining international cooperation;

> Providing additional effort to identify the most effective measures.

The White paper shows the Commission acknowledging that increased understanding of climate change and the impacts of a changing climate are required to define the ’best’ adaptation measures. The Paper describes the need to create a ‘Clearing House Mechanism’ by 2011 where information on climate change risks, impacts and best practices would be exchanged between governments, agencies, and organisations working on adaptation policies.

The Commission’s acknowledgement of climate change and its links to human health, through both the White Paper and the Staff Working Document, have been long awaited by the NGO community. It serves also to highlight the need for DG SANCO to give more focus to climate change. HEAL welcomed the coordinated approach and the focus on protecting vulnerable groups who will be hardest hit, the plan gives greater importance to health and acknowledges that environmental factors lie at the root of numerous diseases. We do however advocate for more of a dual focus - on adaptation to these problems and rapid implementation of actions to ensure a decrease in carbon emissions.

Read the Staff Working Document

Read the white paper - "Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action Human, Animal and Plant Health Impacts of Climate Change".

Read more in the HEAL press release

Last updated on 1 July 2011

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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