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Towards a win-win policy mix for healthier people and planet

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Pollution – the key theme of the EU Green Week 2021 – is the largest environmental cause of multiple mental and physical diseases and of premature deaths, writes Viatris Europe Head of Corporate Affairs Victor Mendonca.

The ambitious targets set by the European Commission in the European Climate Law - to include the 2030 emissions reduction target of at least 55% as a steppingstone to the 2050 climate neutrality goal - will help to create a greener Europe and improve people’s health. Just mid-May, the European Commission’s Zero Pollution Action Plan was launched with the aim to reduce air, water and soil pollution by 2050 to levels “no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems.”

As regards to pharmaceuticals, the plan aims to solve pollution from pharmaceuticals in water and soils, in addition to the EU target on antimicrobial resistance reduction. Additionally, patients and clients are more environment-aware and demand that companies take a position and show commitment of this topic.

The link between impact on environment and health could not be stronger than today.

Viatris, a new kind of healthcare company, formed in November 2020, is focused on ensuring sustainable access to medicines worldwide and serve patients regardless of their geography or circumstance. So how does a pharmaceutical company strike this balance between committing to addressing the world’s most pressing health needs and tackling the environmental challenges at hand?

First - managing our water use, air emissions, waste, climate change and energy impact requires an integrated, comprehensive approach. For example, Viatris increased the share of renewable energy by 485% since 2015. We are also working on developing a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target in line with the Science-Based Target Initiative's (SBTi) criteria. Additionally, through our membership of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative, we aim to continuously improve social, health, safety and environmentally sustainable outcomes for our supply chains.

Conserving water and proactive wastewater management are core components to managing sustainable operations as well as in promoting access to medicine and good health. For example, in 2020, Viatris has implemented measures at several sites in India to reduce water use, enhance efficiency and ensure that no untreated wastewater enters the environment. While these initiatives were implemented in India, they testify to the company’s commitment to conserving water and proactive wastewater management globally.

Second – companies such as Viatris must look at some of the key topics impacting people and planet health in a holistic way. Take antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a prominent public health threat occurring when bacteria evolve to withstand the effects of antibiotics, making infections harder to treat. Addressing AMR requires a multi-stakeholder cooperation. An effective response to AMR needs to prioritize access to antimicrobials, stewardship measures – including appropriate use and surveillance – and responsible manufacturing. Most antibiotics in the environment are the result of human and animal excretions while a significantly smaller amount is from the manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and their formulation into drugs.

Viatris is committed to reducing pharmaceuticals discharged from our manufacturing operations, and working with stakeholders across the industry to combat AMR through – for examples – being a signatory to the Davos Declaration on combating AMR and a founding board member of the AMR Industry Alliance. Applying the common Antibiotic Manufacturing Framework and engaging with all the antibiotic suppliers so they adopt the framework should also be a priority for all pharmaceutical companies.

Third – we cannot do it just on our side. Partnerships need to be consolidated to promote risk- and science-based policies and practices. Viatris is advocating established industry initiatives on good environmental practices including on responsible manufacturing and effluent management. This is the best way of scaling the application of good environmental practices to facilitate effectiveness across the value chain, help reduce administrative burden and contain cost – all of which serve the two overarching objectives of stable and timely access to high quality and affordable medicine and responsible conduct.

As a pharmaceutical company, Viatris is looking forward to an open and constructive dialogue with stakeholders around Europe to find solutions that guarantee access to medicines and respond to the environmental and health challenges. Partnerships and cooperation are key to the success of a zero-polluted world.

Environment

Copernicus: First automated pollen measurements allow cross-checking forecasts in several European countries in near real-time

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A partnership between the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service and the European Aeroallergen Network has taken the first step in verifying pollen forecasts near-real-time through EUMETNET’s automated pollen programme “Autopollen”.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) has announced the first step in a joint initiative with the European Aeroallergen Network (EAN) to automated pollen monitoring in several European countries. Under the auspices of the Network of European National Meteorological Services (EUMETNET), various pollen monitoring sites have been equipped with automated observation capability as part of the “Autopollen” programme led by the Swiss Meteorological Service MeteoSwiss. On sites with automated pollen observations, forecasts can be checked in near-real-time whilst elsewhere they can only be evaluated at the end of the season.

CAMS, which is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission, currently provides four-day forecasts of five common pollen types; birch, olive, grass, ragweed and alder using sophisticated computer modelling. The automated pollen monitoring system is being trialled across 20 sites in Switzerland, Bavaria/Germany, Serbia, Croatia, and Finland, with plans to expand to other European countries.

These are the first routine automated pollen observations to have become publicly available which means that anyone who uses CAMS pollen forecasts, whether via an app or tool, or directly on the website, can check the daily forecast updates against the incoming observations and assess how accurate they are. While the system is still in an early stage, scientists predict that it will help significantly on the evaluation of how far forecasts can be trusted. Instead of evaluating forecasts at the end of the season, sites currently equipped with automated pollen observations allow cross-checking in near-real-time. Further down the line of the project, CAMS and EAN hope to improve daily forecasts using the observations through the process of data assimilation. Incoming observations will be processed instantly to adjust the starting point of daily forecasts, as it is done for instance in numerical weather prediction. Furthermore, a roll out to geographically cover all Europe with the support of EUMETNET is planned.

CAMS has been working with EAN since June 2019 to help verify its forecasts with observational data from more than 100 ground stations across the continent that have been selected for their representativeness. Through the partnership, forecasts have improved significantly.

Pollen allergies affect millions of people across Europe who may react to certain plants at different times of year. For example, birch pollen peaks in April and is more likely to be avoided in the south of Europe, meanwhile going north in July can mean misery for sufferers as grasses are in full flower at this time. The olive tree is common in Mediterranean countries and its pollen is highly prevalent from May to June. Unfortunately for sufferers, there are hardly no ‘pollen free’ regions as spores are transported across huge distances. This is why CAMS’s four-day forecasts are an invaluable tool for allergy sufferers who can track when and where they are likely to be affected. And the new automated pollen observations could become a gamechanger once the scheme is rolled out further.

Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), comments: “The new automated pollen monitoring capacity developed by EUMETNET and the EAN is of benefit to all users who can check how far the forecasts are correct. While it is common today to verify air quality forecasts in real time, it is truly ground-breaking for pollen. This will also make the continuous development of our forecast models faster and in the medium-term they could be used in the processing of forecasts, too. Knowing you can check the forecast of the day, or the past few days, was correct is invaluable.”

Dr Bernard Clot, Head of Biometeorology at MeteoSwiss, said: “The automated pollen programme ‘Autopollen’ of EUMETNET is an exciting development for Europe and this is only the first step. While there are currently six sites in Switzerland, eight in Bavaria, and a total of 20 across the continent, we are coordinating the expansion of the network for full European coverage.

Copernicus is the European Union’s flagship Earth observation programme which operates through six thematic services: Atmosphere, Marine, Land, Climate Change, Security and Emergency. It delivers freely accessible operational data and services providing users with reliable and up-to-date information related to our planet and its environment. The programme is coordinated and managed by the European Commission and implemented in partnership with the Member States, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), EU Agencies and Mercator Océan International, amongst others.

ECMWF operates two services from the EU’s Copernicus Earth observation programme: the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). They also contribute to the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS). The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 34 states. It is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its Member States. This data is fully available to the national meteorological services in the Member States. The supercomputer facility (and associated data archive) at ECMWF is one of the largest of its type in Europe and Member States can use 25% of its capacity for their own purposes.

ECMWF is expanding its location across its member states for some activities. In addition to an HQ in the UK and Computing Centre in Italy, new offices with a focus on activities conducted in partnership with the EU, such as Copernicus, will be located in Bonn, Germany from Summer 2021.


The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service website can be found here.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service website can be found here. 

More information on Copernicus. 

The ECMWF website can be found here.

Twitter:
@CopernicusECMWF
@CopernicusEU
@ECMWF

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Environment

Frans Timmermans at the EESC: 'The European Green Deal will be just, or will just not be'

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Frans Timmermans has announced measures to shield the most vulnerable from the possible extension of the emission trading system to heating and transport fuels, and heard the EESC's proposals to improve corporate decision-making on the green transition through social dialogue.

Welcoming European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans to the EESC plenary session on Wednesday (9 June), EESC President Christa Schweng said that the EESC had been a staunch ally of the Commission in its climate action. It had backed the Commission's proposals for bolder emission cuts by 2030 than originally planned. It had also been its active partner in the efforts to support the fledgling circular economy in Europe, with the two institutions launching the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform in 2017 as a go-to resource for trailblazing businesses across Europe.

Now, as Europe reflected on how to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic, a social deal was needed more than ever to ensure a just green transition.

"The Green Deal is an ambitious growth strategy for the EU to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and provide economic impetus," said Schweng, "but the social, labour, health and equity dimensions should be strengthened to ensure that no person, community, worker, sector or region is left behind."

Timmermans stressed that the social dimension of the green transition was the Commission's prime concern, as the pandemic had blown social disparities out of proportion, putting society "on edge". He described the main elements of the Fit for 55 package to be released on 14 July.

Hardwiring social fairness into climate measures

The package would "hardwire social fairness into the new proposals", said Timmermans, by:

·         Sharing the burden of climate action fairly between industries, governments and individuals, and;

·         introducing a social mechanism to help soften the impact on the most vulnerable of measures such as the possible extension of emissions trading to heating and transport fuels.

"Rest assured", said Timmermans, "if we do take this step and if households face growing costs as a result, we will ensure that a social mechanism, a climate action social fund, is in place that can compensate for any possible adverse effects."

"We must protect vulnerable households against potential price increases for heating and transport fuels, especially in regions where clean options aren’t readily available," said Timmermans. " So if we were to introduce emissions trading for these fuels, that means we must also take our commitment to social fairness a step further. Any proposal on emissions trading in these new sectors must come with a proposal for the social impact at the same time."

Bringing the workers' voice into the equation

As part of the debate, Timmermans heard the EESC's contribution to shaping a social deal integral to the Green Deal. The proposals, set out by rapporteur Norbert Kluge, focus on stronger worker participationin corporate decision-makingand on corporate social responsibility.

"Social dialogue is of paramount importance to guarantee a close link between the Green Deal and social justice," said Kluge. "We believe that by bringing in the workers' voice we can improve the quality of economic decisions that companies make in transitioning to a green model."

"Worker information, consultation and board-level participation tend to favour a more long-term approach and improve the quality of decision-making in an economic reform agenda." said Mr Kluge.

A report by the Hans Böckler Foundation on how business in Europe weathered the 2008-2009 financial crisis found that companies with employee-inclusive supervisory boards were not only more robust, but also recovered more quickly from its consequences. They laid off fewer employees, maintained higher levels of investments in R&D, registered higher profits and exhibited less capital market volatility. Overall, they were also more oriented towards the company's long-term interests.

However, the EESC stresses that a social deal as an essential part of a green deal is not just related to work. It is about income, social security and fiscal support for all who need it, including those without any access to work at all.

Active labour market policies are needed, together with effective public employment services, social security systems adapted to changing patterns of labour markets and appropriate safety nets in terms of minimum income and social services for the most vulnerable groups.

Read the full text of Timmermans' speech.

Watch the debate with Frans Timmermans on the EESC's twitter account @EU_EESC

The EESC opinion No Green Deal without a social deal will shortly be available on the EESC's website.

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Animal transports

Help farmers to end cage farming

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“We strongly support the Citizens’ Initiative 'End the Cage Age' for farm animals. Together with 1.4 million Europeans we ask the Commission to propose the right measures to end cage farming,” said Michaela Šojdrová MEP, EPP Group member of Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.

“Animal welfare can be best guaranteed when farmers get the right incentives for it. We support a smooth transition from cages to alternative systems within a sufficient transition period that is considered for each species specifically,” added Šojdrová.

As the European Commission has promised to propose new animal welfare legislation in 2023, Šojdrová underlines that an impact assessment must be done before, by 2022, including the costs of the required transformation in both the short and the long-term. “As different species, laying hens or rabbits, require different conditions, the proposal must cover these differences with a species by species approach, by 2027. Farmers need transition periods and a compensation of the higher production costs,” Šojdrová said.

“To guarantee animal welfare and to not disadvantage our European farmers, we need effective control if imported products respect EU animal welfare standards. Imported products must comply with European animal welfare standards so that our high-quality production will not be replaced by low-quality imports,” emphasised Šojdrová.

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