Policy Focus | Empowering citizens in EU climate action
On Wednesday, 26 October 2022, the College of Commissioners will release the Zero Pollution Package that aims to eradicate the total presence of pollution in the air, water, soil, and consumer products. This package includes proposals to revise EU’s ambient air quality legislation, the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation and the lists of surface and groundwater pollutants.
This meeting comes at a moment when EU institutions have been addressing energy and environmental policy within the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine and in preparation for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt (COP27) and the UN Biodiversity Summit in Canada (COP15).
Following the launch of the European Green Deal in December 2019, the Council adopted the first European Climate Law in June 2021 that sets down the measures necessary to achieve a climate-neutral continent by 2050. In the same year, the Commission presented the ‘Fit for 55’ package, a set of proposals and policy initiatives meant to enable the reduction of net greenhouse emissions by at least 55% by 2030 as the intermediate step towards carbon neutrality by mid-century. More recently, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 triggered a severe energy crisis across Europe and beyond, the Commission launched the REPowerEU Plan in May 2022 to hasten the transition to renewable energy and lessen Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels. Moreover, the European Parliament and the Council passed the Taxonomy Delegated Act in July 2022 which will enter into force in January 2023, whose ambition is to increase green investments while preventing ‘greenwashing’ by establishing a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities.
European Commission: Zero Pollution Action Plan
Eurobarometer: Attitudes of Europeans towards Air Quality
European Environmental Bureau: WHO air quality guidelines: one year on, what has changed?
26 October: College Meeting
06 November: Start of UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27)
15 December: Start of UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15)
The European Movement International position
As outlined in our policy position on the European Green Deal, the EU’s climate action has the potential to enhance citizens’ wellbeing while strengthening their participation in the EU decision-making process. As a pillar of the European Green Deal, the Zero Pollution Action Plan must reinforce and harmonise EU policies and global actions to pursue more ambitious environmental and health standards to keep citizens safe and protect our air, soil, and water. Air pollution being Europe’s largest environmental health risk, the EU must revise its legislation to better control air pollution and reduce emission sources without shifting pollution elsewhere. Moreover, effective and long-term air quality improvement requires national, regional, and local cooperation and communication.
The inputs of all levels of governance, stakeholders and civil society are crucial at all stages of the transition to ensure the successful implementation of the European Green Deal. The EU and its Member States would benefit from strengthening civic engagement in environmental and social policies as citizens have a unique role to play in combating climate change. To enhance citizens’ trust and engagement in the Green Deal, they need to feel ownership and control over the EU’s climate action. Therefore, it is vital that the tools of the European Green Deal, such as green investment plans, are designed transparently and openly. Furthermore, organised civil society must have a say through structured dialogues as a tool to improve the legitimacy, quality and effectiveness of policy implementation and promote a positive and transformative change across Europe.