Citizens proposed ways to improve health, fight climate change and protect the environment at a forum held in Warsaw on 7-9 January.
As part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Warsaw hosted some 200 Europeans on 7-9 January 2022, who came for the third and final session of the European citizens’ panel dedicated to climate change, environment and health. Due to the current Covid-19 situation, some panel members joined remotely.
Panellists discussed their recommendations in five areas:
- Better ways of living
- Protecting our environment and our health
- Redirecting our economy
- Redirecting overproduction and overconsumption
- Caring for all
Participants voted on 64 recommendations: 51 were approved, while 13 did not reach the required 70% support threshold.
Citizens welcomed the opportunity to recommend policy action: “This is a win for all, in a practical and moral sense,” said Celestino, a panellist from Italy. “The citizen takes central stage here and experiences politics, the moment and the complications that come with this and tries to find solutions to improve things. People feel included. The citizen is part of the system.”
Nina, a panellist from Germany, said: “I think it’s very important to talk about these topics and we’ve come up with a lot of great suggestions and recommendations. So I really hope that EU politicians follow up on this by listening to our opinions, listening to the citizens’ voices and taking action that is in the interest of the EU citizens.”
Better ways of living
Panellists recommend providing EU subsidies for organic farming and support for vertical farming, where crops are grown in layers on top of each other. The EU should also set minimum standards for food quality in school canteens and food production should become part of public education.
Another recommendation is an EU directive on urban development to make cities greener. Panellists also want more support for cyclists and investment in new bike lanes.
Protecting our environment and health
Panel participants called for a unified labelling system explaining the entire ecological footprint of products purchased within the EU as well as labels stating the use of hormonal substances in food products.
They also want higher taxes on unhealthy foods to discourage consumption and a European-wide scoring system for healthy food.
Panellists recommended a drastic reduction of the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers. To protect biodiversity, they want the extension of protected areas as well as rapid and massive reforestation. Panellists also want a gradual phasing out of intensive animal farming.
Redirecting our economy and consumption
Panellists recommend that the EU should encourage the longer use of products by lengthening their warranties and setting a maximum price on spare parts.
The EU should enforce stricter environmental manufacturing standards, which should also apply to imported goods and introduce measures to limit advertising for products that damage the environment.
Redirecting overproduction and overconsumption
Panellists want the EU to make CO2 filters mandatory, especially for coal plants. They want to tackle pollution by imposing fines on polluters and reducing the amount of imported goods that don’t meet the EU’s ecological footprint standards.
The EU should also support member states in improving the connectivity or rural areas, while incentivising affordable public transport and promote the purchase of electric vehicles and investment in developing other non-polluting technologies.
Caring for all
Panellists suggest a change in the EU treaties that would introduce a legal base for more EU action on health. Health treatments across the EU should be of equal quality and at a fair cost. Citizens suggest that a new European procurement agency could negotiate better prices for medicines for all member states.
Female sanitary products should stop being considered as luxury goods and taxed extra. To promote a better understanding of health, EU countries should include mental health and sexual education in their school curricula.
Representatives of the panel will present and debate the recommendations at the next Conference Plenary on 21-22 January 2022 in Strasbourg. The plenary includes representatives of the EU institutions, national parliaments, civil society and citizens.
The final outcome of the Conference will be presented in a report to the presidents of the Parliament, the Council, and the European Commission, who have committed to following up on these recommendations.
The remaining European citizens’ panels will also adopt their recommendations in the near future.
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