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Sustainable Development Goals – 17 environmental health opportunities for Europe

At the end of 2015, HEAL participated in the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) Regional Assessment on how to deliver the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Europe.

The two day event organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), brought together over a hundred stakeholders to discuss how EU member states, civil society and other stakeholders can drive forward the implementation of the 2030 SDGs in Europe, agreed in September 2015. This new generation of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets is a new roadmap to guide global development to 2030.

During the UNEP Regional Consultation meeting for Europe, Delivering on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, 13 November 2015, HEAL Executive Director Genon K. Jensen participated in a panel discussion: Healthy environment – Healthy people.

PHOTO CAPTION: Sascha Gabizon, Executive Director, Women in Europe for a Common Future moderated the panel which featured presentations from HEAL Executive Director (link to PDF of my remarks), Roberto Bertollini, Chief Scientist and WHO Representative to the European Union (Link to presentation:, and others. Photo credits: © Sonia Goicoechea

PHOTO CAPTION: Genon K. Jensen, HEAL Executive Director highlighted EU policy files for priority action to meet the 2030 Health SDG (to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) by advancing on Target 3.4 to reduce by one third premature mortality from all non-communicable disease (NCD) through prevention and treatment and Target 3.9 to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illness from hazardous chemical air, water and soil pollution. Photo credits: © Sonia Goicoechea

Highlight of civil society SDG recommendations to UNEA

Environmental Health and the SDGs
“UNEP plays an important role in developing guidelines for environmental health and coordinating the conventions addressing the substitution of hazardous substances, but as the SDGs have stated, much more needs to be done to ensure a healthy planet for healthy people.”

“UNEA to call on all countries to immediately ratify the Minamata Convention on Mercury.”

“UNEA to develop recommendations for a binding international tax on chemical and pharmaceutical sales for clean-up and health protection (this is an existing proposal SAICM – like Tobin tax, a 0,001% tax on total turnover achieving 4 billion Euro or so annually)”

Healthy ecosystem and inequalities
“UNEA to agree on a global program to integrate biodiversity and ecosystem protection into national health, economic, agriculture policies and investments, including action plans to specifically:

  • Create a dietary shift towards low meat, locally and ecologically produced food to reduce land use pressure as well as reducing non communicable diseases (NCDs)
  • Move to only organic local agriculture and production of biofuels
  • Social support for low-income population to access safe ecologically clean food, water and air. UNEP can play a major role here in addressing SDG 10 on reducing the growing inequalities we are confronted with in Europe”

Equitable and coherent policies to protect environmental health
“Add specific sex- and age-disaggregated indicators to be added to the basic global SDG indicators so that specific vulnerability of women and children, (e.g. early life exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in daily products and pesticides) are addressed.”

Research and pro-active awareness raising and advocacy
“UNEP to support Civil Society Organisations and Environmental NGOs with strong ‘advertising’ campaigns which warn – just as with anti-smoking messages – about the hazards of burning coal in chimneys, mercury in fish, of EDCs in plastic, food, toys and cosmetics etc. and that contained in the link it is made very clearly to people that they are responsible for their own health, (e.g. your risk of heart attack) “

“Make the co-benefits of environment and health very clear: longer and healthier lives thanks to clean environment, more resilient communities against climate and other natural disasters, value of nature for mental and emotional health, etc. “

Public Finance: Subsidies and Taxation
“Member states at UNEA-2 should aim to:

  • Stop public finance flows to unsustainable practices;
  • Stop the subsidisation of fossil fuel exploration and use, and redirect subsidies in favour of renewable energy forms”

Way forward
“Civil Society is ready to start work on monitoring the implementation, but is also waiting for an EU strategy and action plan to implement all the 17 goals in Europe.”
Leida Rijnhout, Director Global Policies and Sustainability, European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and co-organiser of the conference and policy dialogue.

More info
To read more on the outcomes and the full list of recommendations, please consult

Originally posted on 27 January 2016

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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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