Europe needs a reality check – as new European energy and climate goals for 2030 are too low to address climate crisis

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe is disappointed with the lack of ambition of the proposals for a EU 2030 climate and energy package, put forward by the European Commission today. The Commission set out a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% below the 1990 level, a EU-wide binding target for renewable energy of at least 27%, renewed ambitions for energy efficiency policies, a new governance system and a set of new indicators to ensure a competitive and secure energy system.

Brussels, 22/01/2014 – In a recent letter addressed to President Barroso and other Commissioners, HCWH Europe urged the Commission to agree on a comprehensive 2030 policy framework with binding targets of at least 55% greenhouse gas emission reductions within the EU, a 45% renewable energy share, and 40% energy savings by 2030.

Leading health institutions and health professionals have already been warning about the link between climate change and negative health consequences, such as extreme weather related conditions, heat related illnesses, and infectious, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases (1), and the impact on the healthcare sector due to mortality and morbidity. According to the conclusions of the Commission’s Impact Assessment (2) accompanying the White Paper, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is clearly beneficial for human health and the healthcare sector. However, HCWH Europe finds that the proposed 40% domestic greenhouse gas emission target will not deliver the expected results and will not allow the EU to keep its promise to cut climate emissions by 80-95% before 2050, and to keep global temperature increase below two degrees Celsius (3) without putting more strain on EU healthcare systems.

The Impact Assessment also finds that positive health impacts are more pronounced in case of ambitious energy efficiency policies and renewable energy targets due to the resulting higher reduction of fossil fuel consumption. The current proposal for a 27% renewable energy target with flexibility for Member States to set national objectives and a non-binding energy efficiency target clearly falls short in is respect. In case of the EU healthcare sector, the 15,000 European hospitals have a high demand for heating and electricity and require a large amount of energy for water heating, ventilation, air conditioning and steam. They collectively account for some 5% of EU CO2 emissions per annum, a figure similar to the international aviation and maritime transport activities in Europe. At the same time, the healthcare sector is already taking measures to address its climate footprint exploring options to generate an increasing share of their energy needs from renewable sources and to improve their energy efficiency with encouraging results in many Member States (4).

The unambitious proposal of the Commission will leave the huge potential of the healthcare sector for mitigating the impacts of the climate change untapped. The lack of a binding energy efficiency target may hinder the promising developments in many Member States, as decisions on the need for further legislation will be taken only after the review of the Energy Efficiency Directive scheduled for this summer.

As a next step EU Heads of Sates and Governments are expected to discuss and find agreement on how to shape energy and climate policies until 2030 on the basis of this proposal at the Summit to be held in March 2014.

Anja Leetz, the Executive Director of HCWH Europe, comments: “The EU is the first to set out climate emissions reduction targets ahead of the UNFCCC COP21 meeting to be held in Paris in 2015, but the level of ambition is insufficient. Now Member States commit themselves during the upcoming discussions to adopt targets that, if ambitious, would bring substantial health benefits and healthcare savings for Europe. In fact, ambitious targets would drive Europe to low carbon energy systems, away from dirty coal use that increases the health burden for the EU citizens and costs for healthcare systems in EU Member States”.


(1)Climate change will affect, in profoundly adverse ways, some of the most fundamental pre-requisites for good health: clean air and water, sufficient food, adequate shelter and freedom from disease. World Health Organization (2009): Protecting Health from Climate Change, Connecting Science, Policy and People


(3)Ecofys report (2013): The next step in Europe’s climate action

(4)For example, the participating hospitals of the RES-Hospitals project:


Health Care Without Harm is an international coalition of more than 500 organisations in 53 countries, working to transform the healthcare sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. Visit the HCWH website for more information.