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Health impacts of climate change, costs and benefits of action and inaction

The European Green Deal refocused the European Commission’s commitment of tackling climate and environment-related challenges. It also aims to protect, conserve and enhance the EU's natural capital, and protect the health and well-being of citizens from environment-related risks and impacts. In addition to aiming for climate neutrality by 2050, the Commission adopted a more ambitious EU strategy on adaptation to climate change on 24 February 2021. This is essential, as climate change will continue to create significant stress in Europe in spite of the mitigation efforts.

The World Health Organization estimates that climate change will cause at least 250 000 additional deaths per year globally between 2030 and 2050[[]]. Climate change, together with other natural and man-made health stressors, can influence human health and disease patterns in numerous ways. Some existing health threats will intensify and new health threats will emerge, with variable impact on different socio-economic groups. Climate changes induce events such as changes in biodiversity, disruption of ecosystems, habitats and land use, global warming and heat waves, changes in UV exposure or flooding. These events are influencing globally the incidence and spread of infectious diseases and increasing pollution, thereby causing new threats to human health.

The aim of this topic is the identification, monitoring and quantification of direct and indirect impacts on human health, including in occupational settings, and related risk factors correlated to climate change, especially in vulnerable population groups such as children or in groups at risk such as workers. Innovative surveillance tools are further required to ensure a timely response to emerging threats, to feed and strengthen early warning systems, and to enable the design, monitoring and evaluation of interventions. This may include mathematical modelling with big data and artificial intelligence (AI), remote sensing, citizen science and biomarkers of exposure or virulence.

Proposals must choose and address one of the following areas of research:

  • Research on the relationships between changes in environmental hazards caused by climate change, the impacts on interrelated ecosystems and their influence on human health;
  • Climate induced emergence and transmission of pathogens and spread of zoonotic pathogens using Eco-health[[Ecohealth is a field of research, education, and practice that adopts systems approaches to promote the health of people, animals, and ecosystems in the context of social and ecological interactions.]] and One Health[[The One Health concept recognises that human health is tightly connected to the health of animals and the environment, for example that animal feed, human food, animal and human health, and environmental contamination are closely linked.]] approaches.

Proposals should include all of the following activities:

  • Development of suitable indicators and monitoring mechanisms to assess the health-relevant outcomes of climate policies and actions;
  • Development of predictive models and early warning systems for exposure and health impacts of climate change based on transparent assumptions and architecture;
  • Development of tools for health impact and cost-benefit assessment of climate-change adaptation and mitigation measures;
  • Investigation of health co-benefits of adaptation and mitigation policy measures outside the health sector;
  • Demonstration of the validity of tools and methods developed in the above listed activities in policy-relevant case studies;
  • Determination of the societal implications of climate change on health systems, including occupational health, and development of adaptation measures;
  • Development of training materials and guidelines to educate relevant actors in citizens’ daily life on climate change health impacts and to facilitate adaptation of health systems and practices;
  • Delivery of FAIR[[FAIR data are data, which meet principles of findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability. This can include data from European data infrastructures and programmes such as Copernicus, European Space Agency and the GEO initiative.]] data on positive and negative health impacts of climate change, including impact on groups at higher risk or vulnerability.

International cooperation is encouraged with the specific aim to support international climate policies. If projects use satellite-based earth observation, positioning, navigation and/or related timing data and services, they must make use of Copernicus and/or Galileo/EGNOS (other data and services may additionally be used).[[E.g. data and products provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service]].

Aspects such as gender, age, regional variations, socio-economics and culture should be considered, where appropriate.

All projects funded under this topic are strongly encouraged to participate in networking and joint activities, as appropriate. These networking and joint activities could, for example, involve the participation in joint workshops, the exchange of knowledge, the development and adoption of best practices, or joint communication activities. This could also involve networking and joint activities with projects funded under other clusters and pillars of Horizon Europe, or other EU programmes, as appropriate. Therefore, proposals are expected to include a budget for the attendance to regular joint meetings and may consider to cover the costs of any other potential joint activities without the prerequisite to detail concrete joint activities at this stage. The details of these joint activities will be defined during the grant agreement preparation phase. In this regard, the Commission may take on the role of facilitator for networking and exchanges, including with relevant stakeholders, if appropriate.