In June 2012 EPHA took part in the European Commission public consultation on the 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP), to operate from July 2012. In its position EPHA emphasized the vital need to consider and promote health and equality issues, in particular the need to tackle overconsumption and inequalities in access and distribution of resources considered as public goods.
2012 EPHA Policy Position on the EU environment policy priorities for 2020: Towards the 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP)
The long-term vision for Europe’s environment and in particular the priority objectives for 2020 need to consider and promote health and equality in both physical and social environments. Some schemes developed as a result of the Commission’s consultation show a skewed focus on the supply of products and services and give little consideration to actual demand. Given the overconsumption and inequalities in access and distribution of resources, this should be given due consideration.
It is important that any future priority setting for Europe’s environment includes cross-sectoral collaboration with social affairs, equal opportunities, justice, agriculture and rural development departments. It also needs to take into consideration economic, financial, taxation, energy, public procurement, research and innovation, transport, regional, cohesion, consumer and health policies.
In our view, the future EU Environment Action Programme should:
- recognize the environment as a contributing factor and social determinant of many persistent and emerging public health problems such as chronic diet-related diseases and conditions (CVD, cancer, diabetes, obesity);
- recognise the unequal distribution of indoor and outdoor air-quality related diseasessuch as respiratory disease, asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affecting vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women, the poor, Roma and migrants;
- highlight the significant environmental burden of disease from inadequate housing, fuel and energy poverty, poor standards of water cleanliness and sanitation, inequalities in access to natural resources and few possibilities for some populations to be able to improve their environments;
- promote both energy efficiency, safe and healthy housing recognising the link to health and social inequalities, particularly in the current economic crisis. The Programme needs to also consider rises in poverty levels, growth in urban environments, indoor air quality and the need to , invest in environmentally and socially disadvantaged communities;
- acknowledge the environmental impacts from food production and consumption
- highlight unsustainable, high-risk agricultural practices and the dangerous use of pesticides and other chemicals, also bearing in mind the rise of antimicrobial resistance as transferred from “animal production” to human health systems;
- establish and incentivise sustainable and affordable public transport systems, which are accessible to all, regardless of social and demographic group, location, etc. Incentives should also be put in place to improve other modes of transport, such as cycling and walking, both in urban and rural areas. There also need to be measures to reduce noise pollution and improve road safety;
- tackle patterns of overproduction and over-consumption, especially of environmentally-harmful products, such as red meat and dairy, at the same time improving access to and distribution of food instead of boosting productivity;
- promote and boost local and regional food systems so that short food supply chains can improve access to fresh products (such as fruit and vegetables), retain income in the local economy (reducing poverty and social exclusion) and reduce the environmental footprint of food and services;
- make sure there are compulsory assessments of agricultural subsidies on products such as meat, tobacco, alcohol and sugar, to monitor their environmental, health and societal impact ;
- tackle food waste alongside food poverty;
- urgently address unsolved problems of endocrine disruptors, nanomaterials, the combined effects of chemicals and prenatal exposure and noise pollution;
Making change happen
EU citizens have the right to a high level of health and environmental protection (which includes adequate schemes promoting social cohesion). EU-Member States can contribute to this to a high degree by:
- complementing their national inspections and surveillance with contributions at EU level to ensure consistency and effectiveness of implementation;
- ensuring that adequate national legislation is in place;
- giving citizens access to and a greater role in monitoring environmental data;
- improving data collection to ensure appropriate analysis, compliance and enforcement within their country or state;
- gaining greater insights into the lives of their citizens, looking into their values and actual behaviour, at the same time increasing their citizens’ knowledge through awareness-raising campaigns;
- rewarding environmentally-friendly behaviours and discouraging environmentally-damaging ones;
- aligning environmental and climate-change objectives and goals with other EU policies, especially following “Health in All Policies” principles by increased and comprehensive cross-sector collaboration (with transport, energy, research, agriculture and food production, development and regional policy departments);
- recognizing peoples’ rights to healthy and clean environments through national legislation, particularly taking into account socially and environmentally vulnerable and deprived population groups.