EU members urge the bloc to prepare for climate change hazards
Twenty members want the bloc to increase surveillance of threats to health posed by extreme weather
Brussels — A large majority of EU countries want stronger EU action to prepare for the health consequences of climate change and global warming’s potential to spread vector-borne diseases, a document seen by Reuters shows.
Europe is experiencing severe health impacts as a result of the changing climate. About 61,000 people died in sweltering European heatwaves last summer, suggesting countries’ heat preparedness efforts are falling well short.
In a joint paper, 20 of the EU’s 27 member countries — including Croatia, Germany, Greece, Malta and the Netherlands — have urged the EU to increase its surveillance of the threats to health and healthcare systems posed by extreme weather, to help countries prepare.
The EU should also draft plans for infections of zoonotic and climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases, and strengthen its early warning and response system if disease-spreading vectors are detected, the countries said.
“Unless proactive measures are taken, it is a matter of time before certain preventable infectious diseases, which are currently more prevalent in other regions, become increasingly common occurrences within the EU,” the paper said.
It is also backed by Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia.
Climate change is increasing the risk that infectious diseases will spread into new areas, including in Europe, as summers become hotter and longer, and increased flooding creates favourable conditions for spreading infectious disease. An example of this is the tiger mosquito, which is now present in 337 regions in Europe — more than double the number a decade ago, said the paper.
EU countries’ health ministers will discuss the paper in a meeting next week. The EU is drafting its first climate risk assessment, due to be published in 2024 as a basis for future policies to cope with climate hazards like heatwaves and wildfires.
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