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.
LIFE programme: More EU support for climate action
The EU agreed to fund the LIFE programme with a budget of €5.4 billion. LIFE is the only programme at EU-level solely dedicated to the environment and climate and the programme for 2021-27 is the most ambitious yet. There will be €3.5bn for environmental activities and €1.9bn for climate action. The programme is part of the Green Deal package proposed by the European Commission.
Find out about EU responses to climate change.
Creating a cleaner and more circular economy that re-uses and recycles products is a main priority for the EU and the LIFE programme will have an important role to play. The programme will support the transition to clean energy and will work together with other programmes towards the EU goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. It also aims to protect and improve the quality of the environment and to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
The LIFE programme is part of the EU long-term budget and recovery plans, which committed to spending 30% on climate action. The other programmes include the Just Transition Fund to help EU regions to adapt to the green economy, InvestEU which will finance climate projects, and Horizon Europe which will fund EU research and innovation in the climate sector.
Read more on EU funding for initiatives to fight climate change:
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Big business seeks unified, market-based approaches ahead of climate summit
Corporate executives and investors say they want world leaders at next week’s climate summit to embrace a unified and market-based approach to slashing their carbon emissions, write Ross Kerber and Simon Jessop.
The request reflects the business world’s growing acceptance that the world needs to sharply reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its fear that doing so too quickly could lead governments to set heavy-handed or fragmented rules that choke international trade and hurt profits.
The United States is hoping to reclaim its leadership in combating climate change when it hosts the 22-23 April Leaders Summit on Climate.
Key to that effort will be pledging to cut US emissions by at least half by 2030, as well as securing agreements from allies to do the same.
“Climate change is a global problem, and what companies are looking to avoid is a fragmented approach where the US, China and the EU each does its own thing, and you wind up with a myriad of different methodologies,” said Tim Adams, chief executive of the Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based trade association.
He said he hopes U.S. President Joe Biden and the 40 other world leaders invited to the virtual summit will move toward adopting common, private-sector solutions to reaching their climate goals, such as setting up new carbon markets, or funding technologies like carbon-capture systems.
Private investors have increasingly been supportive of ambitious climate action, pouring record amounts of cash into funds that pick investments using environmental and social criteria.
That in turn has helped shift the rhetoric of industries that once minimized the risks of climate change.
The American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil companies, for example, said last month it supported steps to reduce emissions such as putting a price on carbon and accelerating the development of carbon capture and other technologies.
API Senior Vice President Frank Macchiarola said that in developing a new U.S. carbon cutting target, the United States should balance environmental goals with maintaining U.S. competitiveness.
“Over the long-term, the world is going to demand more energy, not less, and any target should reflect that reality and account for the significant technological advancements that will be required to accelerate the pace of emissions reductions,” Macchiarola said.
Labor groups like the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of U.S. labor unions, meanwhile, back steps to protect U.S. jobs like taxing goods made in countries that have less onerous emissions regulations.
AFL-CIO spokesman Tim Schlittner said the group hopes the summit will produce “a clear signal that carbon border adjustments are on the table to protect energy-intensive sectors”.
Industry wish lists
Automakers, whose vehicles make up a big chunk of global emissions, are under pressure to phase out petroleum-fueled internal combustion engines. Industry leaders General Motors Co and Volkswagen have already declared ambitious plans to move toward selling only electric vehicles.
But to ease the transition to electric vehicles, US and European automakers say they want subsidies to expand charging infrastructure and encourage sales.
The National Mining Association, the US industry trade group for miners, said it supports carbon capture technology to reduce the industry’s climate footprint. It also wants leaders to understand that lithium, copper and other metals are needed to manufacture electric vehicles.
“We hope that the summit brings new attention to the mineral supply chains that underpin the deployment of advanced energy technologies, such as electric vehicles,” said Ashley Burke, the NMA’s spokeswoman.
The agriculture industry, meanwhile, is looking for market-based programs to help it cut its emissions, which stack up to around 25% of the global total.
Industry giants such as Bayer AG and Cargill Inc have launched programs encouraging farming techniques that keep carbon in the soil.
Biden’s Department of Agriculture is looking to expand such programs, and has suggested creating a “carbon bank” that could pay farmers for carbon capture on their farms.
For their part, money managers and banks want policymakers to help standardize accounting rules for how companies report environmental and other sustainability-related risks, something that could help them avoid laggards on climate change.
“Our industry has an important role to play in supporting companies’ transition to a more sustainable future, but to do so it is vital we have clear and consistent data on the climate-related risks faced by companies,” said Chris Cummings, CEO of the Investment Association in London.
Kerry calls for close EU US co-operation to set ambitious climate goals in Glasgow
President Biden’s Climate Envoy John Kerry arrived in Brussels for the second stop on his visit to Europe, after London. Executive Vice President Timmermans said that he was convinced that the United States and Europe working together: “We can move mountains.”
Kerry said that he was delighted to be meeting the European Commission’s College of Commissioners, reassuring that the US and President Biden were fully committed to address the issue with what he described as “an all of government effort”.
Kerry said that the science is screaming at us and growing every year. While describing the situation as a crisis, he also said that it presented the greatest opportunity that we've had since perhaps the Industrial Revolution, to build back better and to renew ourselves and our economies.
“We have no better partners than our friends here in Europe and the EU,” said Kerry. “It is important for us to align ourselves now, because no one country can resolve this crisis alone. It will take every country and it will be more than governments. It will take civic society of our states, our nations and it will take the private sector. Every single economic analysis makes it clear.
“It is more expensive for our citizens not to respond and do what we need to do than it is to do it. Glasgow is the last best opportunity that we have, that best hope that the world will come together and build on Paris.
“Paris does not alone get the job done. If all of us did what's in Paris, we still see a warming 3.7 degrees or more. And we're not doing all that we set out to do in Paris. So this is the moment for countries, common sense governments people to come together and get the job done. We can do it.”
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