The European Commission adopts a zero pollution action plan
On May 12, the European Commission adopted the Zero Pollution Action Plan, which sets out an integrated vision for 2050 where pollution is reduced to levels that are no longer harmful to human health and natural ecosystems, along with the steps to achieve this.
The EU action plan: “Towards zero pollution for air, water and soil” – a key element of the European Green Deal and the main theme of this year’s EU Green Week – links all relevant EU policies to tackle and prevent pollution, with a particular focus on how to use digital solutions to tackle pollution. Reviews of relevant EU legislation are planned to identify remaining gaps in EU legislation and cases where better implementation is needed to meet these legal obligations.
Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said the zero pollution action plan “aims to bring the way we live, produce and consume within the limits that the planet has set. Pollution determines the health and length of our life. Zero pollution is at the heart of the Green Deal, closely linked to our strategies such as farm to fork and biodiversity ”.
“When we talk about being climate neutral, it’s not just about being carbon neutral, but also having zero pollution. This is the only way we can truly become climate neutral and prevent the loss of a million species, which we risk doing now. We therefore urgently need to reduce air, water and soil pollution, ”said Timmermans. “By 2050, we all want to live in a toxic-free environment. There will still be deposits, but they will have reached a level which is no longer harmful, neither for our health, nor for the planet ”, he said, recalling that pollution in the EU still causes 1 death out of 8. “So, out of eight people who die, one is due to pollution. Several cancers, heart and respiratory diseases; they are all linked to pollution. With the most vulnerable in society, as always, suffering the hardest impacts, ”he said.
Pollution in the EU and elsewhere is one of the top five risk factors for ecocide. “So it also contributes to the continued mass extinction of species. If we don’t deal with it now, our children will have to deal with it, and it will cost a lot more and be a lot more difficult, ”he said.
“To create a toxic-free environment, we need to look at all sources of pollution. The cars we drive, the way we farm the land, the pesticides we use, the way we heat, power and ventilate our homes, even the noise we still make. It impacts our health and our lives, but it also determines the fate of the species on which all life on earth depends, ”said Timmermans. “We have to start to understand that if we are talking about nature, we are also talking about ourselves. There is no humanity on one side and nature on the other. We are a component of nature, ”he added.
“To give you an example, we want to reduce the impact of air pollution on health by over 55% and protect biodiversity from air pollution in an additional 25% of our ecosystems. We want to reduce by 30% the share of people chronically disturbed by transport noise and halve the loss of nutrients, the use and risk of pesticides, as well as the sale of antimicrobials for farm animals and in aquaculture. The action plan also sets targets for plastic waste, microplastics and municipal residual waste, ”said Timmermans.
“Our general guiding principle is to avoid creating pollution. If pollution then becomes inevitable, it must be minimized, controlled and, where necessary, cleaned up. Stricter enforcement will ensure that the measures taken are also enforced. It should also be a clear message to Member States and co-legislators: if you make a decision and the decision needs to be implemented, we will implement it. This is extremely important, ”said Timmermans.
European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius said environmental pollution negatively affects the health of people, especially the most vulnerable and socially deprived groups, and is also a major driver of biodiversity loss. “The arguments for the EU to lead the global fight against pollution are now stronger than ever. With the zero pollution action plan, we will create a healthy living environment for Europeans, contribute to a resilient recovery and stimulate the transition to a clean, circular and climate neutral economy, ”he said.
To steer the EU towards the 2050 goal of a healthy planet for healthy people, the action plan sets key targets for 2030 to reduce pollution at source, compared to the current situation . Namely, improving air quality to reduce the number of premature deaths from air pollution by 55%; improving water quality by reducing waste, plastic waste at sea (by 50%) and microplastics released into the environment (by 30%); improving soil quality by reducing nutrient losses and the use of chemical pesticides by 50%; reduce by 25% the ecosystems of the EU where air pollution threatens biodiversity; reduce the proportion of people chronically disturbed by transport noise by 30% and significantly reduce waste production and municipal residual waste by 50%.
The plan outlines a number of flagship initiatives and actions, including: aligning air quality standards more closely with the latest World Health Organization recommendations, reviewing water quality standards , including in EU rivers and seas, reduce soil pollution and improve restoration, review the majority of EU waste laws to adapt them to clean and circular economy principles, promote pollution from production and consumption, present a scorecard of green performance of EU regions to promote zero pollution in regions, reduce health inequalities caused by disproportionate share of harmful effects on health now supported by the most vulnerable, reducing the EU’s external pollution footprint by limiting the export of products and waste with harmful and toxic impacts in third countries, by launching t Living Labs for green digital solutions and zero smart pollution, consolidate EU knowledge centers for zero pollution and bring stakeholders together in the zero pollution stakeholder platform, stricter application of zero pollution with environmental authorities and others.
Together with the chemicals strategy for sustainability adopted last year, the action plan translates the EU’s zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment into action. It goes hand in hand with the EU’s objectives for climate neutrality, health, biodiversity and resource efficiency and builds on initiatives in the fields of energy, industry, mobility, food, circular economy and agriculture.
This year’s EU Green Week, the largest annual event on environmental policy, from June 1-4, will allow citizens across the EU to discuss zero pollution from its many perspectives at the main conference of Brussels, online and in more than 600 partner events.