Health groups call on the leaders of the Western Balkan countries to harmonize national air quality standards with the World Health Organization Global air quality guidelines. Health experts should be actively involved in these decision-making processes to ensure the timely integration of public health measures into environmental policies. Compliance with WHO recommendations brings multiple benefits – reduced incidence of chronic diseases and premature deaths, reduced overall health costs and, most importantly, better health and higher productivity of people.
Today, the European Commission presented the European Green Deal plan that sets out many environmental health issues, where the European Union policies such as climate, air or chemicals, can help deliver a zero pollution objective and better health protection for all. However, to achieve the transformational, systemic change needed to address the magnitude of the challenges the world is facing today, the timeline and scope of the European Green Deal will have to better reflect the evidence which clearly makes the case for more urgent action.
Genon K. Jensen, Executive Director at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), said:
“The climate and environmental crises pose an unprecedented threat to our and the planet’s health. The European Green Deal proposal shows that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has understood the importance of a healthy planet for healthy people. But science and the accelerating scale of environmental degradation tell us we have to be more ambitious – we believe a zero pollution- and health-based approach can be the overarching principle to deliver on these ambitions.”
Sophie Perroud, Policy Coordinator at HEAL, said:
“The EU Commission’s promise to align the current air quality standards more closely with the science-based recommendation of the World Health Organization is a major and long awaited step forward – now it will be crucial to move past the announcement stage and propose a concrete and short timeline to implement WHO guidelines as EU standards, for the health of all Europeans. The positive effects of this Green Deal need to be breathable by the end of this mandate.”
Anne Stauffer, Director for Strategy and Campaigns at HEAL, said:
“The fact that the European Green Deal includes climate action at its heart is welcome news for health and brings long-term opportunities for disease prevention. But swifter and more decisive action is needed – with a greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal of at least 65% by 2030 and a clear timeline for revising the 2030 goal in the first months of 2020. The science and thousands of protesters worldwide have made it clear that it’s now or never. If we don’t get rid of the fossil fuel addiction in the next decade, global heating beyond 2 degrees is inevitable. Health groups now urge European governments and Parliament to ensure the EU Green Deal reflects the urgency, and include measures e.g. on ending fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, ensuring healthy energy and incentives for active transportation and ending combustion-based transport.”
Natacha Cingotti, Senior Policy Officer Chemicals and Health at HEAL, said:
“The proposal on the table is an important step in the right direction to protect health from hazardous chemicals, as it commits to ensuring a toxics-free environment through a chemicals strategy for sustainability, which we hope to see out in early 2020. It also promises to incorporate more quickly the latest scientific evidence on endocrine disrupting chemicals and combined effects of chemicals into regulatory frameworks, which we think needs to trigger rapid action to reduce exposures.
With increasing pollution and related health effects, speeding up protection through enhanced chemical regulations led by the precautionary principle is the only viable option to lead the transition to resilient economies and true sustainability.”