While certain world leaders deny the climate crisis, the European Commission last week published a comprehensive plan to “reboot” the EU’s economy and society towards a sustainable future – the European Green Deal.
The Green Deal rides on the back of ever-more alarming scientific findings and waves of popular protests. Addressing issues such as climate, biodiversity, air quality, social justice, food, chemicals, antimicrobial resistance, pharmaceuticals in the environment – the Green Deal is a public health strategy to its core and people’s health will benefit tremendously if its actions are properly designed and implemented.
Public health has also much to offer in terms of solutions. The purpose of public health policies is to create the conditions for people to flourish within the planet’s boundaries. Public health offers a transformative approach to tackling societal challenges, in a way that enhances people’s freedom, rather than blames individuals, addresses the root causes of problems and enhances social equity.
To illustrate this potential, EPHA has launched an initiative called “Policies for health living environments”, which maps the implementation of promising public health policies across Europe, starting with policies to create healthy ‘food environments’.
Food is at the heart of many sustainability challenges, but is also the key to getting much of it right. The upcoming EU ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy, to be published in Spring 2020, has mobilised civil society across Europe. For many years EPHA has advocated for a sustainable EU food policy that would bring coherence across the food chain. With this type of approach finally on the political agenda, now is the chance to present concrete policy solutions and push for a real transition.
Likewise, with an ambitious zero pollution strategy, we can save our lives and the planet’s: high policy ambition—which limits the global average temperature rise to “well below 2°C”—is possible, and would transform the health of a child born today for the better, throughout their lives.
The time for lofty aspirations has long passed, action is all that counts now.
Policy Coordinator for Food, Drink and Agriculture
Policy Manager for Clean Air