Environment and health for European cities in the 21st century

WHO/Srdan Matic

Representatives of cities, local authorities, intergovernmental organizations, agencies and Member States discussed how the European Environment and Health Process could support the implementation of the SDGs, at a meeting in Bonn, Germany, on 27–28 June 2016.

With more than 80% of Europeans expected to live in urban areas by 2030, a rapidly ageing population and increasing migration to cities, urban, man-made environments have become the dominant environmental determinant of health and well-being. Cities provide a vital setting where different policies converge and can be integrated and leveraged to reduce inequality, increase the social and physical resilience of communities and promote and protect health and well-being from environmental threats. For the first time, a meeting bringing together representatives of cities and local authorities, intergovernmental organizations, agencies and Member States was convened by the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany, on 27–28 June 2016.

The meeting explored how the European Environment and Health Process (EHP) could support the implementation of relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets through the establishment of new forms of collaboration with representatives of European cities and local authorities. These could include creating a platform to act as a broker among different levels of government, connecting them across borders, as well as across different sectors and actors. The platform would facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences, promote the development of partnerships, and enhance policy coherence to address priority environment and health issues in urban settings.

Participants at the meeting also discussed how inequalities could be reduced and the physical and social resilience of communities enhanced, particularly in the context of climate change, by addressing the environment and health priorities of European cities within the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Finally, the meeting initiated a discussion to identify areas which could be amenable to collaboration and partnerships between the EHP and subnational levels of governance, particularly focusing on the policy domains which are within their responsibility, such as local transport, housing, land use planning, green areas, local infrastructures for water, sanitation, and waste management, and local measures for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.

The meeting was part of the preparatory events for the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, which will take place in 2017.