WHO evidence underpins new EU strategy on adapting to climate change

WHO/James Creswick

Launch of new European Union policy on climate change in Brussels, Belgium on 29 April 2013. Photo: WHO/James Creswick

The main findings of the WHO/Europe project on climate, environment and health action plan and information system (CEHAPIS) underpin the health component of the new European Union (EU) policy on climate change, launched today. The EU strategy that will drive countries’ action on climate change is accompanied by a Commission staff working document (CSWD), “Adaptation to climate change impacts on human, animal and plant health”, that is based on WHO evidence and recommendations, as well as the Commitment to Act from the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health. This further reinforces international recognition of health as an essential component in adapting to climate change and urges action on it.

CEHAPIS is the result of a joint initiative of WHO/Europe and the European Commission to assess health risks from climate change to the EU’s population and identify policy options to address them.

Health risks from climate change

The primary concerns in Europe are growing risks from heat-waves and extreme precipitation events, changes in the distribution of vector-borne diseases, an increase in food- and waterborne diseases, and air pollution.

WHO-coordinated evidence reviews and expert consultations have identified three key tasks to protect health from climate change in the EU:

  1. integrating health into policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation in other sectors; 
  2. integrating climate change into policies and action for public health; and
  3. increasing awareness of and intelligence on climate change and health.

Referring to the evidence and action areas, the CSWD and the strategy complement WHO/Europe’s work to support its 53 Member States, including the 27 EU countries, in protecting health from climate change. This work is formalized in the WHO European regional framework for action that countries endorsed at the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in 2010.