Zero Pollution Ambition webinar - Summary (originally published May 2021)

On 23 February, a webinar “Research for the Green Deal: how to shape research in order to help achieve the zero pollution ambition took” place online. 

As the HERA (European Health Environment Research Agenda) project has been identifying pressing research needs and knowledge gaps that EU needs to address by 2030 to fully implement its policies and improve status of all components in the health-environment and climate nexus, a webinar series was set up that should highlight the link between the strategies and research aiming at attaining goals of the recently adopted EU strategies. 

HERA for the EU policies

The first “HERA and Zero Pollution Ambition” webinar took place on 23 February from 11.30 until 12.30. It was attended by approximately 90 participants and the distinguished speakers included: Ms. Veronica Manfredi (European Commission, DG Environment, Quality of Life), Ms. Sophie Perroud (Health and Environment Alliance, HEAL), Mr. Åke Bergman (Stockholm University, Sweden) and Mr. Martin Scheringer (RECETOX, Masaryk University, Czech Republic, ETH Zurich). The webinar was aiming at uncovering what were the steps needed to secure healthy ecosystems and a healthy living environment for European citizens and how HERA Interim Agenda could contribute to shaping the EU policies in this area.

Joint action, alliances… 

The webinar started off with Ms. Manfredi outlining the most recent developments regarding the Zero Pollution Action Plan which had received a very high number of comments during the consultation phase. She made clear that the ambition of the Action Plan is high and that the support of all stakeholders is needed, in order to reverse current unsustainable trends. In this sense, she welcomed the support of HERA and its valuable input into policy discussions.

There was a common understanding that to fully implement the Green Deal, joint action of all stakeholders is a prerequisite. In this regard, Sophie Perroud emphasized that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic must be green, specifically highlighting the need to make climate and systemic environmental changes a conditionality for the use of recovery funds. 

…and more knowledge needed…

What concerns research gaps in this joint endeavour, Mr. Bergman mentioned the need for “the full picture of the ´chemosphere´ has to be researched” meaning mainly the “identification of the complex mixtures of chemicals in indoor environments, mirroring the discharges from our living environments. As for other tasks, it was important “to focus on waste stream discharges, i.e., wastewater and biosolids, which is a mirror of all uses of anthropogenic chemicals and their transformation products.” His words were echoed by Mr. Scheringer who stated that “we still do not fully understand where the pollution comes from and how it interacts with the environment and people where they live”. He added, “there is ongoing research, but for many chemicals on the market it is not clear enough where they are used, in what amounts and by whom, apart from the segment of the market that they are designed for.” 

…for systemic changes.

The ensuing discussion touched upon some of the issues: one of the participants mentioned the HBM4EU project that has produced alarming data about the presence of chemicals in our environment and their impact on health and their replaceability. Veronica Manfredi has assured that the principle of “safe and sustainable by design” has been enshrined not only in the EU Chemical Strategy but is also an important pillar of the EU Treaties. Nevertheless, pollution remains a world-wide problem and the Commission is ready and eager to get to know solutions from research or other stakeholders. In conclusion, Mr. Scheringer posed a challenging question whether as a society we can achieve less polluted environment in the ever growing chemical industry. 


The recording of the webinar is available on this link.

You can also read further written messages from our speakers here: