The Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform (ZPSP), a joint initiative of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Commission (EC), held its 4th meeting on Thursday, 20 April 2023, focusing on zero pollution production and consumption, on initiatives for developing local actions for green and digital transformation across Europe and on the efforts on zero pollution of the CoR's Green Deal Going Local campaign.
The Zero Pollution Action Plan's (ZPAP) dedicated flagship initiatives on 'Towards zero pollution for production and consumption' and 'Living Labs for green digital solutions and smart zero pollution' are key to achieving the EU's zero pollution ambition. These were some of the key messages shared by participants in the fourth Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform Meeting held in Brussels on 20 April.
The meeting opened with remarks from the co-chairs Veronica Manfredi, Director for Zero Pollution, DG Environment, European Commission and Marieke Schouten (NL/Greens), Member of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).
Veronica Manfredi, Director for Zero Pollution, DG Environment, European Commission, said: "The Zero Pollution Action Plan will soon celebrate its second birthday. We have made good progress since May 2021. The European Commission has tabled several proposals to prevent or reduce pollution of air, water and soil. Also, the actions linked to achieving climate neutrality and a circular economy, jointly with the EU's revamped determination to become less dependent on fossil fuels, will bring us a way towards zero pollution from production and consumption. We now need to ensure that our zero pollution approach makes a real difference to citizens and nature on the ground. Today's discussions demonstrated that there is a lot of support for the “Green Deal going local". She further emphasised that digital solutions can make a big contribution if they are at the service of citizens' health and the environment. The recommendations discussed by the Stakeholder Platform provide a useful compass to make better use of these tools.
Marieke Schouten, Alderman of the municipality of Nieuwegein, said: "Today we are discussing the relation between circular economy and the polluter pays principle. Ask yourself this: if the polluter does not pay, who does? In many circumstances it is the local authorities that have to pay for cleaning up waste and solving the problems caused by a non-circular economy. We will also focus on the two important legislative proposals on Air Quality and Urban Wastewater, part of the Zero Pollution Action Plan". She further referred to the upcoming workshop on 25 April where plans for a Zero Pollution urban and regional scoreboard will be discussed.
The ZPAP's Flagship 4 on facilitating zero pollution choices in production and consumption will promote 'near-zero waste' options, and products and services that are less polluting over their whole life cycle. In this context, the ZPSP meeting featured a range of presentations on circular economy initiatives and the application of the Polluter Pays Principle by the European Commission. Discussions focused on strengthening synergies between circular economy and zero pollution and making the polluter pays principle more effective.
The CoR presented its Green Deal Going Local activities on Zero Pollution, including work towards the two latest opinions on Zero Pollution files. The discussion among stakeholders emphasised challenges and opportunities for Zero Pollution at local and regional level, and the importance of ensuring adequate policy and funding opportunities from the Green Deal for local authorities to accelerate progress towards a green and just transition.
Una Power (IE/Greens), Member of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and rapporteur on the CoR opinion on Revision of the EU Ambient Air Quality Legislation said: "We cannot tolerate more than 300.000 thousand annual premature deaths caused by air pollution in the EU. I support full alignment of the EU legislation with the 2021 World Health Organization guidelines. Achieving these targets will be possible only in timely coordination with equally ambitious policies to tackle the sources of pollution at all levels. Air pollution does not stop at EU, national, regional or local borders. To properly fight pollution, local areas cannot be left alone. The EU needs to support air quality transition with dedicated adequate funding opportunities".
Åsa Ågren Wikström, Member of Västerbotten County Council and rapporteur on the opinion on Revision of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, said: "We welcome an update and adaptation to today's challenges and technical opportunities. There is also a need to address micropollutants such as pharmaceutical residues and microplastics because I think I can speak for us all in saying that we all want clean water, healthy lakes, and seas. We need a strong and ambitious directive, but if it is too rigid and inflexible, the consequences for some municipalities and regions will be heavy investments with little environmental benefits".
The ZPAP Flagship 7 focuses on digital solutions at the service of citizens' health and the environment. The meeting heard a presentation from the European Commission's DG CNECT on priorities and first results of the digital agenda in service of the Green Deal. The European Network for Living Labs (ENOLL) works on green digital solutions and smart zero pollution to engage with regional and local authorities. They presented their latest recommendations on fostering digital solutions for zero pollution. The stakeholders also heard from the European Environment Agency (EEA) on their Environment and Health Atlas.
Participants discussed a range of policy questions related to using digital solutions for zero pollution to serve citizens, as well as the ENOLL recommendations and stakeholders' proposals for future work in this area. These discussions provided valuable insights and feedback on promoting sustainable practices that contribute to achieving the Zero Pollution Ambition.
The Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform launched in June 2021. Information on workshops and other events are available on the Platform's web page.
The first meeting of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform took place on 16 December 2021 with the presence of the Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius and the President of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia in Greece, Apostolos Tzitzikostas. You can read the press release here.
The second meeting of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform took place on 25 April 2022, co-chaired by Patrick Child, Deputy Director General of DG Environment of the European Commission and Marieke Schouten (NL/Greens), Alderman of the municipality of Nieuwegein. You can read the press release here.
The third meeting of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform took place on 11 October 2022, co-chaired by Patrick Child, Deputy Director General of DG Environment of the European Commission and Marieke Schouten (NL/Greens), Alderman of the municipality of Nieuwegein. You can read the press release here.