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11 March 2021
PREVENT, - Air Quality

The European Commission adopted its Climate Adaptation Strategy on 24 February, which outlines how the European Union can adapt to the consequences of climate change and become climate resilient by 2050.

The strategy outlines four overriding objectives: to make adaptation smarter, swifter and more systemic, and to step up international action on adaptation to climate change, including health.

Climate change hits the most vulnerable

At EFA we have engaged in climate change policies to highlight the needs of all people living with allergy, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the climate emergency.

The EU’s steps for climate change adaptation is a welcome step to recognise the worsening effects , such as higher mortality during climate change hazards like heatwaves and hospitalisations and the onset of respiratory and allergy conditions due to long-term changes in climate and biodiversity.

The catastrophic consequences of the climate crisis, including on our health, cannot be ignored any more. The extreme weather is causing more and longer heatwaves in Europe, causing larger rates of mortality (in 2019, a heatwave in Europe caused 2,500 deaths). The rising temperatures in oceans not only impacts biodiversity and causes flooding, but the loss of ecosystems reduces oxygen levels – therefore it is vital to prevent this to protect our respiratory health.

As the climate crisis continues, our health will be impacted also through increased diseases, and our healthcare systems will struggle to keep up. As a global threat, climate change needs a cross-border approach to solutions.

The EU strategy to adapt to climate change

The Climate Change Adaptation Strategy is key as it not only looks at ways to prevent the worse consequences of climate change, through integration with initiatives of the European Green Deal, including: the Biodiversity Strategy, Renovation Wave, Farm to Fork Strategy, the Circular Economy and Zero Pollution Action Plans, but also how to create ways to mitigate the consequences already happening.

The EU will use its strategy to work with scientists and policymakers through established dialogue and mechanisms.

EFA welcomes the commitment of the European Commission to ensure climate preparedness at the EU level and to respond to climate-related health threats, through the EU Framework on Health Threats and the planned Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). Linking climate change and health with the European Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) will also enrich the preparedness and response Europe leads against societal challenges.

EFA also calls for the following measures to create effective climate action to prevent climate-change related diseases and mortality:

  • Improve resilience to climate change in urban areas through effective city planning including buildings, mobility, and green spaces, such as through the Intelligent Cities Challenge,
  • Reinforce European civilian protection mechanisms not only during natural catastrophes but also against regularly occurring extreme climate events such as heatwaves,
  • Support regional and local authorities to effectively protect those living with chronic diseases such as allergy and respiratory disease, by implementing helplines, monitoring, priority access to chilled areas, protection material such as anti-dust masks and cooling systems, and financial support for building adaptation.
  • Empower citizens, including those most vulnerable, to take action locally and in their own or rented homes for healthy resilient living.

The new European Climate and Health Observatory

As part of the Strategy, the European Commission and the European Environment Agency European Climate and Health Observatory to increase the EU’s efforts and research into researching climate-related diseases.

This new EU knowledge hub was launched in March as a first concrete outcome of the Climate Adaptation Strategy, under Climate-ADAPT, to prepare and adapt to the impacts on health climate change causes.

Through global climate agreements such as the Paris Agreement, and European initiatives such as the European Green Deal, the Hub sets out to achieve this through providing access to information and tools at the European and national level, as well as exchange dialogues and promoting international cooperation to understand the different climate change indicators and their impact on European health to create climate resilience.

This is a positive step towards acknowledging the serious impact climate change has on health, including on respiratory illnesses. EFA is positive about the Hub and its aims, but urges that the outcomes meet the following demands:

  • Incorporate detailed considerations on the short and long-term effects climate change events have on allergy and respiratory health to strengthen national and European emergency alert systems,
  • Finance conclusive European research studies linking climatology with environmental health-diseases, to generate the missing evidence that will serve to propose clear and effective health-related climate adaptation indicators and diminish political hesitancy,
  • Invest in clear, timely and accessible public information climate change and its effects on health while tailoring the information to specific vulnerable groups such as allergy and airways diseases patients.

You can read the European Commission’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy here.

You can read EFA’s full response to the consultation on climate change adaptation here.

Visit the European Climate and Health Observatory website here.