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The 'One Health' approach must be at the forefront of the EU's Zero Pollution Ambition  
​​​ While air and pesticides pollution have decreased in​​ the EU, harmful noise, nutrient pollution and municipal waste have stalled. Much stronger action is needed if the EU is to achieve its 2030 pollution reduction targets. These are some of the conclusions of the first Zero Pollution Monitoring and Outlook Report, the main topic of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform conference that took place in Brussels on 14 December. The report provides a snapshot of pollution in the EU and includes guidelines to deliver the 2030 targets of the EU's Zero Pollution Action Plan.

The conference opened with a video message from Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal, who stressed that "Air pollution still the largest environmental threat to our health. That is why aligning the EU air-quality standards more closely with the latest recommendations of the World Health Organisation is so vitally important. Our zero-pollution ambition is also a global agenda as we are paving the way for a global agreement in plastic pollution. We cannot deviate from our green ​​​path. The longer we wait to reduce pollution, the higher the cost is for society." 

Apostolos Tzitzikostas, First Vice-president of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of the Central Macedonia region, said: "I am pleased that the conclusions of the report mention the need to focus on cities and regions to determine progress as local and regional authorities play a key role in fighting pollution. The post-pandemic recovery should focus on the 'One Health' concept, acknowledging the link between human, environmental and animal health. Inequalities in pollution levels remain too high, affecting the most vulnerable first. We therefore need to ensure that no community, nor citizen is left behind." The message was delivered by Marieke Schouten (NL/Greens), CoR member and co-chair of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform. 

Marieke Schouten (NL/Greens), Alderman of the municipality of Nieuwegein, also delivered a report assessment, saying: "This report cannot be neglected by policymakers or by politicians as it provides accurate data that facilitates targeted action while delivering concrete tools to take further measures in reducing air, soil and water pollution at the local level. We must keep the 'One Health' approach at the forefront, better identify and explore cross-sectorial synergies and increase citizens' involvement." 

Birgitta Sacrédeus (SE/EPP), Member of Dalarna Regional Council and CoR rapporteur on the opinion 'Europe's Beating Cancer Plan', intervened in the session 'Zero Pollution and Health', stressing that: "We welcome health being a main aspect of the Zero Pollution Action Plan. We must stay on track to reduce by 55% premature deaths caused by air pollution by 2030. The impact of noise pollution should not be underestimated as more than 100 million people in Europe are exposed to harmful levels of noise pollution. We reiterate our call to revise the Directive on noise reduction to set mandatory targets closer to WHO recommendations." 

The European Environment Agency reports 238,000 premature deaths in 2020 in the EU for exposure to concentrations of fine particulate matter. 

Una Power (IE/Greens), Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Councillor and Member of the Green Deal Going Local working group, took the floor during a session on 'Zero Pollution and Biodiversity', recalling that: "Pollution constitutes one of the five main threats to biodiversity, which is why they need to be addressed in an integrated way. As local representatives, we can play a crucial role in increasing citizens' awareness of the concrete advantages of fighting pollution and improving biodiversity. We are part of the natural world around us and cannot separate ourselves from our reliance on natural services. There is also an onus upon us policymakers at all levels to educate ourselves, as biodiverse structures are intricate and complex, and how we plan and shape our regions and cities have immense impact upon how those natural structures function". On 9 December, Una Power was appointed CoR rapporteur on the 'Revision of the EU Ambient Air Quality Legislation'. 

Luca Menesini (IT/PES), President of the Province of Lucca and CoR rapporteur on the 'EU Strategy for Sustainable Circular Economy and Textiles' shared a video message during the session on 'Zero Pollution and Circular Economy', stressing that "Europe has all the potential to act as a forerunner, promoting a model based on sustainable and circular value chains, on the development of technological solutions and innovative business models, as well as on the promotion of models of use and consumption of products aimed at waste prevention. Local and regional authorities are already playing a leading role in the area, alongside producers, waste managers, innovation centres and civil society." 

Today's conference was organised by the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions.

Background information:

The agenda of the meeting is accessible here.

The first Zero Pollution Monitoring and Outlook Report and the Third Clean Air Outlook were published on 8 December 2022  by the European Commission as a joint effort of the European Environment Agency and the Joint Research Centre. You can read the EC press release here.

'One Health' is an integrated, unifying approach to balance and optimize the health of people, animals and the environment (WHO).

The 2030 targets of the EU's Zero Pollution Action Plan are:

  • improving air quality to reduce the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution by 55%;
  • improving water quality by reducing waste, plastic litter at sea (by 50%) and microplastics released into the environment (by 30%);
  • improving soil quality by reducing nutrient losses and chemical pesticides' use by 50%;
  • reducing by 25% the EU ecosystems where air pollution threatens biodiversity;
  • reducing the share of people chronically disturbed by transport noise by 30%; and
  • significantly reducing waste generation and by 50% residual municipal waste.

On 26 October 2022, the European Commission proposed stronger rules against pollution through the revision of the Ambient Air Quality Directives, the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive and the list of controlled surface and groundwater pollutants.

The Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform is a joint initiative of the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions. It supports the implementation of the Zero Pollution Action Plan by defining a common vision on how to achieve zero pollution objectives, bringing together actors from different communities and areas of expertise to tackle inter-related challenges, such as strengthening a joint environment and health agenda and developing and sharing good practices on cross-cutting topics. ​

The European Committee of the Regions has been present at the United Nations biodiversity summit (CBD COP15) in Montreal to advocate for a formal recognition of the importance subnational governments play in implementing the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.​


David Crous

Tel: +32 470 88 10 37   

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