EuroHealthNet drew on its recent H2020 INHERIT initiative to provide feedback on the Zero Pollution action plan. We welcomed the Commission’s recognition of the inextricable links between a healthy planet and healthy people, and of the fact that “pollution often affects the most vulnerable people most seriously”, and agreed with the need for binding health and environmental standards, to ensure that the public and private sector implement EU rules on air, water and soil pollution. We were pleased to see the inclusion of the much-needed polluter pays principle, and noted that legislation should aim to ensure a just transition, in which those who are more vulnerable are not disproportionately harmed by new measures. Shifting to intersectoral governance will ensure that all potential impacts of legislative initiatives are considered; not just environmental but also health and social (equity) impacts.
EuroHealthNet also noted that in order to successfully achieve the zero pollution ambitions, it is critical that citizens are enabled and encouraged to make sustainable changes through effective policies, which identify barriers and build a social and physical environment that facilitates these changes. We also know that people can be motivated to take action through concern for their health. Providing more information on how pollution is affecting health – including through citizen science approaches – can be a powerful lever for change. INHERIT research demonstrated that involving all communities in policies that affect them helps to ensure policies address real needs, is empowering and gives them a vested interest in their success. The feedback urges the Commission to encourage such approaches, in particular initiatives that involve citizens and communities who are most affected by pollution and the green transition, and whose voices are not always heard in public debates.
Finally, EuroHealthNet also suggested a focus away from economic growth, and towards a regenerative and redistributive economy of “wellbeing”, which is good for people and good for the planet. We highlighted Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economy as an essential model in this respect, which the Commission could use to further build on the Finnish Presidency’s Council Conclusions on the Economy of Wellbeing.
The feedback in full can be found here.