Belgium | Sustainability
European Green Deal: Commission targets zero air, water and soil pollution
Frans Timmermans: "Existing new green technologies can help reduce pollution and offer new business opportunities."5/12/2021
The European Commission today adopted the EU Action Plan: 'Towards Zero Air, Water and Soil Pollution', one of the essential achievements of the European Green Deal and the main theme of the EU Green Week of this year. This document presents an integrated vision for 2050: a world where pollution has been reduced to levels that are no longer harmful to human health and natural ecosystems, as well as the steps that need to be taken to achieve this. The Plan links all relevant EU policies to combat and prevent pollution, with particular emphasis on how to use digital solutions for these purposes. It is planned to review the relevant EU legislation to detect existing gaps and identify situations where the rules need to be better applied to comply with legal obligations.
In the words of Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal: “The Green Deal aims to build a healthy and healthy world for all. If what we want is to provide the planet and its inhabitants with an environment free of toxic substances, we have to act now. This Plan will guide our efforts to achieve that goal. New green technologies already in place can help reduce pollution and offer new business opportunities. Europe's efforts to rebuild a cleaner, fairer and more sustainable economy must also contribute to achieving the zero pollution goal. '
Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “Environmental pollution is detrimental to our health - especially that of the most vulnerable and socially disadvantaged groups - and is one of the main causes of the loss of biodiversity. The arguments for the EU to lead the global fight against pollution are more compelling today than ever. Thanks to the Zero Pollution Action Plan, we will create a healthy living environment for Europeans, contribute to a resilient recovery and drive the transition to a clean, circular and climate-neutral economy. '
To lead the EU towards the goal of a healthy planet for healthy people by 2050, the Action Plan sets a series of key targets for 2030 that seek to reduce pollution at source, compared to the current situation. Those objectives are the following:
- to improve air quality to reduce the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution by 55%;
- to improve water quality, reducing waste, plastic waste in the sea (by 50%) and microplastics released into the environment (by 30%);
- to improve soil quality, reducing nutrient losses and the use of chemical pesticides by 50%;
- to reduce by 25% the EU ecosystems whose biodiversity is threatened by air pollution;
- to reduce by 30% the percentage of people chronically affected by transport noise;
- to significantly reduce the generation of waste, and by half that of residual urban waste.
The Plan presents a series of emblematic initiatives and actions such as the following:
- Further align air quality standards with the latest World Health Organization recommendations;
- to review water quality standards, including those of rivers and seas in the EU,
- to reduce soil contamination and promote its restoration;
- to review practically all EU legislation on waste to bring it into line with - the principles of a clean and circular economy;
- to promote zero pollution from production and consumption;
- to present a scoreboard of the ecological performance of the EU regions to promote zero pollution in all regions;
- to shorten the health inequalities caused by the disproportionate number of adverse health effects currently affecting the most vulnerable;
- to reduce the EU's external pollution footprint by restricting the export of products and waste that have harmful and toxic effects in third countries;
- to launch living laboratories for green digital solutions and smart zero pollution;
- to consolidate the EU zero pollution knowledge centers and bring together stakeholders in the Platform dedicated to this goal;
enforce zero pollution standards more rigorously with environmental and other authorities.
Together with the Sustainability Strategy for Chemicals adopted last year, the Action Plan implements the EU's ambition to achieve zero level pollution in an environment free of toxic substances. It is coupled with the EU objectives of climate neutrality, health, biodiversity and efficiency in the use of resources and is part of already existing initiatives in the field of energy, industry, mobility, food, the circular economy and the farming.
The biggest annual event on environmental policy, the EU Green Week, to be held this year from 1 to 4 June, will allow citizens across the EU to discuss zero pollution in its many facets, both at the conference main event in Brussels, as well as online and at more than 600 local events.
Pollution is the leading environmental cause of multiple mental and physical illnesses and premature deaths, especially among children, people with certain health problems and the elderly. Inhabitants of the most deprived areas tend to live near polluted places or in places with a very heavy traffic flow. An environment free of toxic substances is also a crucial factor in protecting our biodiversity and our ecosystems, since pollution is one of the main causes of biodiversity loss. It reduces the ability of ecosystems to provide services such as carbon sequestration and decontamination of air and water.
According to a recent EEA report on health and environment, despite significant improvements in recent decades, more than 400,000 premature deaths are attributed to environmental pollution in the EU each year (including those caused by cancer). ) and 48,000 cases of ischemic heart disease, and noise, 6.5 million cases of chronic sleep disturbances, added to other diseases attributable to both factors.
The EU has already set many pollution-related targets. Current air, water, marine and noise legislation sets environmental quality targets, and numerous laws address sources of pollution. In addition, the Commission has announced in the 'Farm to Fork' and Biodiversity Strategies a series of overarching targets to limit nutrient loss and reduce the amount of pesticides that will help us achieve our biodiversity targets.
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