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European Environment Agency report: Tackling pollution and climate change in Europe will improve health and well-being

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According to a major assessment on health and the environment released today by the European Environment Agency (EEA), poor quality environments contribute to one in every eight deaths of Europeans. Air and noise pollution, the impacts of climate change such as heatwaves, and exposure to dangerous chemicals cause ill health in Europe. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic provides a stark example of the complex links between the environment, our social systems, and our health, with factors causing the disease attributed to environmental pollution resulting from human activity.

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “There is a clear link between the state of the environment and the health of our population. Everyone must understand that by taking care of our planet we are not only saving ecosystems, but also lives, especially the ones who are the most vulnerable. The European Union is devoted to this approach and with the new Biodiversity Strategy, the Circular Economy Action Plan and other forthcoming initiatives we are on the path to build a more resilient and healthier Europe for European citizens and beyond.”

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “COVID-19 has been yet another wake-up call, making us acutely aware of the relationship between our ecosystems and our health and the need to face the facts – the way we live, consume and produce is detrimental to the climate and impacts negatively on our health. From our Farm to Fork Strategy for sustainable and healthy food to Europe's future Beating Cancer Plan, we have made a strong commitment to protect the health of our citizens and our planet.”

The report stresses that an integrated approach to environment and health policies is needed to tackle environmental risks, protect the most vulnerable and fully realise the benefits that nature offers in support of health and well-being. More information is available in the press release.

Climate change

Green transition: Global CO2 emissions continue to rise but EU bucks global trend

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The Joint Research Centre of the Commission has published a new study on Fossil CO2 emissions for all world countries, reaffirming that the EU has succeeded in decoupling economic growth from climate changing emissions. Fossil CO2 emissions of EU member states and the UK dropped in 2019, while globally, the increase of CO2 emissions continued in 2019, although at a slightly slower pace.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, global greenhouse gas emissions have grown steadily. However, EU member states and the UK bucked the trend, with their CO2 emissions from fossil fuels combustion and processes dropping by 3.8% in 2019, compared to the previous year. This means the EU and the UK's fossil CO2 emissions were 25 % below 1990 levels - the largest reduction among the top emitting economic areas around the world. Since 1990, there has also been a decreasing trend in CO2 emissions per capita and per intensity of monetary output across Europe.

These reductions have been achieved thanks to a mix of mitigation policies aimed at decarbonising the energy supply, the industrial and the building sectors, and will be continued with renewed effort under the umbrella of the European Green Deal. These are the results of the latest updates of the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), a unique tool developed by the JRC in support of policy impact evaluation and climate negotiations, which provides a benchmark against which national and global estimates can be compared. More information is available in the JRC press release.

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Climate change

#Climate change bigger economic risk than #Coronavirus ECB's Schnabel says

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The coronavirus pandemic demonstrates in the clearest terms why central banks must take a bigger role in fighting climate change even if the issue at first appears unrelated to monetary policy, European Central Bank board member Isabel Schnabel said, write Balazs Koranyi and Frank Siebelt.

Initially just a health crisis, the pandemic has set off economic shockwaves around the globe, affecting every nation and forcing central banks to provide unprecedented support to underpin economic activity. With climate change posing an even bigger risk, the ECB must keep this issue high on its agenda as it reviews its policy framework, Schnabel told Reuters in an interview.

“Climate change is probably the biggest challenge we are facing, much bigger than the pandemic,” Schnabel said. “Even though this health shock was entirely unrelated to monetary policy, it nevertheless has huge implications for monetary policy,” she said.

“The same is true for climate change and this is why central banks cannot ignore it.” Through its supervisory arm the ECB could require banks to provide a climate risk assessment, which could then affect their access to central bank funding if this assessment has a direct implication on collateral valuations, Schnabel said.

The central bank should also push the European Union to add a green element to its long-delayed project to set up a capital markets union as a focus on green finance could give the bloc a competitive advantage, she argued. Schnabel, who in the past has expressed scepticism about skewing ECB bond purchases towards green bonds, added that her view on the topic was still “developing”.

“There is the view that we should stick very closely to market neutrality,” she said. “And there is the alternative view that markets are not pricing climate risks properly, so there is a market distortion and therefore market neutrality may not actually be the right benchmark.”

Already one of the biggest buyers of green assets, the ECB holds around 20% of the green bonds that are eligible for its purchases, leaving little scope for more buys under its current rules.

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EU progress towards its #ClimateChange goals

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The EU has set out ambitious targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Fighting climate change is a priority for the EU. It has committed to a series of measurable objectives and taken several measures to reduce greenhouse gases. What progress has already been achieved?

2020 climate goals to be reached

Graphic showing the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU between 1990 and 2020 and projections up to 2035Graphic showing the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU between 1990 and 2020 and projections up to 2035 

The EU targets for 2020 have been set out in the climate and energy package adopted in 2008. One of its objectives is a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels.

By 2018, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU had decreased 23.2% compared with 1990 levels. This means the EU is well on track to reach its target for 2020. However, according to member states’ latest projections based on existing measures, the emission reduction would only be about 30% by 2030. The EU emission target for 2030, set in 2008, is a 40% reduction compared to 1990 levels and the Parliament is pushing to set an even more ambitious target of 55%.

In November 2019, the Parliament declared a climate emergency asking the Commission to adapt all its proposals in line with a 1.5 °C target for limiting global warming and ensure that greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.

In response, the new Commission unveiled the European Green Deal, a road map for Europe to become a climate-neutral continent by 2050.

Progress in energy and industry sectors

To meet the 2020 target mentioned above, the EU is taking action in several areas. One of them is the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) that covers greenhouse gas emissions from large-scale facilities in the power and industry sectors, as well as the aviation sector, which accounts for about 40% of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Between 2005 and 2018, emissions from power plants and factories covered by the EU emissions trading system fell by 29%. This is markedly more than the 23% reduction set as the 2020 target.

Status for national targets

To reduce emissions from other sectors (housing, agriculture, waste, transport, but not aviation), EU countries set out the national emission reduction targets under the Effort Sharing DecisionThe emissions from the sectors covered by national targets were 11% lower in 2018 than in 2005, exceeding the 2020 target of a 10% reduction.

Infographic showing EU countries's greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 and 2018 and comparing progress towards the 2020 reduction targetThe targets for EU countries
More infographics on climate change

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