Tackling air pollution, climate change and chemicals: European environmental priorities to protect health

WHO

Environment and Health Ministerial Board in Vilnius, Lithuania on 1 July 2014.

Air pollution, climate change and chemicals pose key environmental risks to people’s health that require political action in the European Region, according to members of the European Environment and Health Ministerial Board (EHMB). EHMB held its fifth meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania on 1 July 2014.

Action on environment and health priorities

EHMB members committed themselves to taking concrete action in the near future to address these priority issues. EHMB will:

  • place the elimination of diseases from asbestos exposure and the implementation of the new Minamata Convention on Mercury at the core of negotiations with European countries, in line with European Member States’ commitment in 2010 to eliminate asbestos-related diseases by 2015;
  • support the adoption of a global resolution on air quality, initiated by France, Norway and other countries, in 2015; and
  • contribute to the WHO Conference on Health and Climate (to be held in August 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland) and the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (to be held in 2015 in Paris, France).

Stronger collaboration with partners

Members of the EHMB consider that working with the European Union (EU) and its agencies is of high strategic importance to perform these tasks. In particular, they agreed to establish solid collaboration with the European Commission, the new European Parliament and the countries holding the EU presidency in 2015–2017. In addition, they laid out a plan of action to strengthen links between multilateral environmental agreements relevant to the implementation of the commitments made at the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, held in Parma, Italy in 2010.

Towards the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health

Plans for the Sixth Conference are being developed. EHMB provided guidance in identifying the main themes – air pollution, climate change and chemicals – while the European Environment and Health Task Force (EHTF) will engage with all 53 countries in the WHO European Region to align priorities, develop targets and reach an agreement on the desired outcomes.

A mid-term review will assess countries’ progress between the 2010 Conference in, and the next in 2016. The review will take place on 10–13 November 2014 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

New members of EHMB

At the meeting in Vilnius, four new members of the EHMB – the health ministers of Croatia, Georgia, Lithuania and Spain – assumed their seats, following their election by the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. Dr Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Minister of Health of Lithuania, and Mr Amir Peretz, Minister of Environmental Protection of Israel, were elected co-chairs. Croatia and Ukraine each offered to host a meeting to support the European environment and health process in 2015 and 2016.

EHMB’s sixth meeting will take place in February 2015 in Madrid, Spain.