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HEAL’s Annual General Assembly discusses current policy challenges

Representatives of HEAL’s European and national member organisations gathered in Brussels to discuss upcoming policy and regulatory developments, including the Paris climate conference, environmental protection of cancer and Better Regulation.

The Annual General Assembly (AGA) of Members meets once a year and is HEAL’s highest decision-making body.

This year, participants of the AGA took an in-depth look at some of the environmental and climate challenges threatening the health of people in Europe and across the globe, and considered if policy-makers were providing the right answers.

The AGA started with a special session on the upcoming UNFCCC Paris climate negotiations COP21, which will take place from 30 November – 11 December this year. Many health professionals, including HEAL and our members, will take part in these historic climate negotiations, as the outcome will also be key for public health in the 21st century. A recent assessment by the renowned Lancet medical journal warned that climate change could have potentially catastrophic impacts on human health, but showcased as well that climate mitigation action represents one of the major opportunities to boost health and well-being.

Sarah Blau, climate attache for the Luxembourg EU presidency and chair of the EU working group, provided AGA participants with an overview of the envisaged Paris package and updates on the negotiations. The EU recently adopted its position for a strong Paris outcome. The session also heard from Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe, on civil society’s position for COP21 and opportunities for health groups to become involved.

Unfortunately the EU’s Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis could not speak personally at the HEAL’s AGA but he addressed climate and health concerns in a special video for our meeting.

The next day, HEAL members and partners held a workshop to strategise on EU and national opportunities to prevent cancer through measures for environmental protection. A number of new social media activities and priority topics for advocacy in 2016 were identified including the EU re-authorisation of glyphosate, a common weed killer that has been recently classified by IARC as a probable carcinogen, the EDC criteria, REACH and awareness raising campaigns on pregnancy, chemicals and EDCs and World Cancer Day.

Against the threat of changes in our environment and continued pollution, participants of the AGA expressed their concern that EU regulators seem to be putting new environmental legislation on hold, and trying to weaken high EU protection standards. In a session entitled “ Better Regulation and Regulatory Cooperation” participants heard from representatives of the New Economics Foundation and Corporate Europe Observatory on why these two fashionable concepts are a threat to democratic decision-making in Europe.

The AGA welcomed also two new HEAL members, a Dutch organisation Wemos and a French organisation France Nature Environment.

Useful resources

Climate and Health

Better Regulation

Originally posted on 23 November 2015

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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