Business as usual will bring higher health costs for Europe

Brussels, 24 October 2014 – Today, the EU leaders have reached an agreement on the post-2020 climate and energy policy framework for the EU. HCWH Europe regrets that our politicians failed to realise the urgency of climate change and missed yet another opportunity to take meaningful action.[1]

Member States endorsed the following headline targets: a binding EU target of an at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 compared to 1990; an EU target of at least 27% is set for the share of renewable energy consumed in the EU in 2030 (that is binding at EU level); and an indicative target at the EU level of at least 27% is set for improving energy efficiency in 2030 compared to projections of future energy consumption based on the current criteria.[2] The energy efficiency target will be reviewed by 2020, having in mind an EU level of 30%.

Despite official communications, the 40% climate mitigation target is the clear sign of the EU dismissing the Copenhagen Accord[3] and its own long-term commitments, as it will clearly be insufficient to keep global warming in the 2°C trajectory or to achieve the EU objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050. It also marks the end of the EU leadership in global climate action, only a year before the COP 21 negotiations on a new international climate agreement that should take effect in 2020.

A share of energy for renewables of 27% will not drive a transition away from polluting fossil fuels and nuclear power towards clean renewable energy. The 27% energy efficiency target is even lower than the indicative 30% target that the Commission proposed in July and will leave a huge potential to reduce costs, improve energy security and to deliver health benefits untapped. As a consequence the EU will be confronted with higher costs linked to health problems.

It has long been recognised that climate change has serious impacts on human health by affecting the social and environmental determinants of health. It is a no-brainer that reduced fossil fuel consumption improves health conditions due to lower emissions of pollutants. Yet, EU leaders chose to put in place an inadequate framework that will eventually impose an additional strain on public health systems due to increased mortality and morbidity, leaving European citizens to pay for the additional costs.

As the direction towards 2030 has been set, legislative proposals will be developed. The European Council will keep all the elements of the framework under review and will continue to give strategic orientations as appropriate, notably with respect to energy efficiency, among others. In line with the agreement, the Commission is expected to propose priority sectors in which significant energy-efficiency gains can be achieved, and ways to address them at EU level, with the EU and the Member States focusing their regulatory and financial efforts on these sectors. HCWH Europe highly recommends to taking the health sector into consideration, since it is among the most energy-intensive sectors where the pace of green energy and efficiency investments will most probably slow down, thanks to the 2030 framework.


Media: Rosalind Simpson, Communication and Press Officer, HCWH Europe

E. T. +32 2503 4911

Policy: Kornelia Bagi, Climate Policy and Membership Officer, HCWH Europe

E. T. +32 2503 4911

[1] Health Care Without Harm Europe is a non-profit European coalition of hospitals, healthcare systems, healthcare professionals, local authorities, research/academic institutions and environmental and health organisations. It currently has 74 members in 25 countries of the WHO European Region that includes 16 Member States of the European Union.

[3] In 2007, the 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC defined 2°C (3.6°F) as the maximum temperature rise compatible with a reasonable chance of maintaining stable ecosystems and human social systems.  This 2°C limit was confirmed politically in Copenhagen (COP15) in 2009 (The Copenhagen Accord, 18 December 2009) and again in Cancun (COP16) in 2010 which detailed that the increase was to be relative to preindustrial levels. Many experts believe that even this level of warming is technically dangerous. There is also a growing consensus that without immediate, drastic cuts in carbon emissions this limit will be exceeded.