€200bn of annual health benefits by cutting air pollution
The European Union’s long-term climate strategy with a vision for a climate neutral Europe by 2050 has been cautiously welcomed by green groups. The strategy sets course for the right destination, but raises concerns about dangerous delays en route.
The ‘Long Term Strategy for a Clean Planet For All’, launched today in Brussels, spells out the EU’s position to fulfill the objective of the Paris Climate Agreement ahead of the next climate COP to be hosted in Katowice, Poland next month.
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomes the strategy’s headline message of a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy for Europe to protect people and planet from the devastating consequence of climate change. The strategy is right to highlight the crucial role of energy efficiency and the circular economy in achieving this aim. However, Europe needs to complete the journey to net zero ten years earlier by 2040 in order to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement.
The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental organisations, with around 150 members in over 30 countries.
EEB Energy and Climate Policy Officer Roland Joebstl said:
“A climate neutral Europe is the right destination and the wide support we’ve seen for this is very welcome. It’s now up to governments, industry and people everywhere to accelerate the speed at which we’re moving. Europe – and the world – can’t afford any further delays on this journey.”
Stopping valuable energy from being wasted is widely considered as the cheapest and most effective route to cut climate-harming emissions and meet commitments made in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The EU’s long term strategy includes pathways for a massive acceleration of energy efficiency and the roll-out of zero emissions buildings across Europe, but fails to harness the potential of action by 2030, leaving cost-effective emission reductions untapped.
In a circular economy waste is prevented and products are reused or recycled. By reusing and recycling more of the four most emission-intensive materials (steel, plastics, aluminium and cement), the EU could reduce the carbon footprint of its industry by 56%, which is roughly equivalent to 300 megatons of CO2 a year by mid-century.
The EEB is calling for requirements that would oblige manufacturers to make consumer products more easily repairable and recyclable by design, as part of the EU Ecodesign rules. Ensuring a right to repair and to longer-lasting products will help reduce energy and material waste while also saving consumers money.
“Incorporating repairability into ecodesign is win-win for EU governments and citizens, but policy makers must seize this opportunity now.”
The long-term strategy also includes calls for a major expansion of renewable energy and clean mobility. It accepts that more investment is required to fund the transition while making unambiguous statements about the costs of inaction and the consequences of runaway climate change.
The strategy also highlights some of the co-benefits of cutting emissions, including €200bn of annual health benefits from cutting toxic air pollution.
EEB Clean Air and Noise Policy Officer Margherita Tolotto said:
“Transitioning from harmful fossil fuels to clean and sustainable alternatives will help to clean up Europe’s toxic air with enormous benefits to our health and the environment.”
However, Tolotto warned that the strategy’s failure to include a specific policy for dealing with methane emissions – which are both a potent greenhouse gas and a precursor of harmful ozone air pollution was a disappointing omission:
“Cutting methane emissions is a win-win for climate and health. We need to see the EU following the example set by the USA under the Obama administration by agreeing laws to tackle this harmful gas.”