EU countries warn of health risks caused by climate change

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Good morning. A scoop to start: The EU is set to continue sending development aid to Palestine, after a European Commission audit confirmed it was not inadvertently funding terrorist groups.

Today, I reveal demands by a large group of EU member states to better prepare health systems for the effects of climate change. And my colleagues in Italy explain why Romans are up in arms about café tables.


EU countries are worried about the effects climate change will have on people’s health and their health systems, even as measures to fight rising temperatures are met with an increasing backlash.

Context: Scientists estimate that last year’s summer heat caused almost 62,000 deaths in Europe, the world’s fastest warming continent. Temperatures broke records again this summer. But the UN has warned that carbon emissions continue to rise, and the world is not on track to contain temperature rises below 2C degrees.

A group of 18 member states is now calling on the European Commission and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to ramp up measures to deal with increased infections and other health effects of climate change.

“Higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns (including floods and droughts), and extreme weather events are having and will increasingly have a negative impact on human health and potentially on the provision of health services,” states a document supported by Germany, Italy, Malta and others and seen by the FT.

The paper notes that the EU has already improved its health preparedness after the Covid-19 pandemic, but more needs to be done.

One issue is that non-communicable diseases resulting from extreme weather, for instance heart attacks during a heatwave, are not adequately covered by current regulation. Their higher frequency, and what this means for healthcare, should be better monitored, the countries say.

They also warn that infectious diseases like Chikungunya fever or West Nile fever, which are transmitted by mosquitoes and have so far not been common in Europe, could spread.

“Surveillance in humans and animals of infectious diseases . . . needs to be strengthened,” the document states.

EU health ministers will discuss the paper at the end of the month. But although better co-ordination and surveillance of health threats is key, the best remedy will be to fight climate change itself.

Green policies are increasingly unpopular in parts of the population and being rolled back by governments. It might be time to remind voters — and their representatives — of the cost of inaction.

Chart du jour: Rough streets

Sweden has gone from having one of the lowest levels of fatal shootings in Europe to one of the highest in just a decade, as well-established criminal gangs claim more victims. While the political right blames immigration for the issue, the left points to the erosion of the welfare state.

Al fresco

When thinking of Rome, you inevitably picture sunny piazzas filled with tables and chairs where people sip coffee and aperitivo.

But many Italians are increasingly fed up with their streets and sidewalks being taken over by tables and chairs since Covid-19, write Giuliana Ricozzi and Amy Kazmin.

Context: During the pandemic, Italy’s rules for setting up outdoor seating were eased to allow cafés, restaurants and bars to keep operating while adhering to public health recommendations on social distancing.

As a result, some streets are now so clogged that it is virtually impossible to walk through them. City official Monica Lucarelli told the FT that in Rome, the amount of space occupied by outside seats is five times higher than before the pandemic.

Italian lawmakers don’t seem in any hurry to reclaim the streets for pedestrians. The parliament is currently in the process of extending the looser pandemic-era rules until the end of next year.

But many Italians are exasperated with the noise and tourist crowds occupying their public spaces. Dozens of people gathered in the capital over the weekend to protest against the parliament’s decision.

“Sidewalks are for pedestrians, not for tables,” read one protester’s sign.

Among the protesters was Alessandra Feraco, who lives in an upmarket neighbourhood near the Vatican and called the situation “dramatic”. “Streets are invaded, it’s a siege, it’s hell. Rome has become an open-air restaurant,” she said.

“A balance must be found between the alleged needs of restaurant owners and the right of residents to rest and walk on sidewalks,” Feraco added.

The outcry is part of a growing backlash against mass tourism transforming many historic cities centres in Europe into a playground for visitors.

Maria Luisa Mirabile has spent most of her life in Rome’s picturesque Monti neighbourhood and witnessed its recent transformation. “We are facing a time-concentrated and rapacious assault,” the 73-year-old said.

What to watch today

  1. EU foreign ministers meet online to discuss the situation in Gaza and Israel.

  2. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other leaders attend G20 investment conference for Africa in Berlin.

  3. Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg visits Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

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