Ozlem Yildirim: How important it is to preserve the environment

"The right to a healthy environment is absolutely vital to the social and economic well-being of people in Europe and worldwide." The International Labour Organisation (ILO), for example, estimates that around 40 % of jobs worldwide depend on a healthy climate. Although the EU has adopted many pieces of legislation, implementation is often poor. For this reason the EESC is calling for greater efforts to genuinely improve the effectiveness of existing legal instruments.

Against the background of the war that Russia is waging in Ukraine, and of the latter's future accession to the European Union, it is more important than ever that the Union and its Member States give effect to the right to a healthy environment. The EESC would stress that there is an urgent need to work towards better environmental protection with a view to safeguarding fundamental rights in the Union and beyond. It highlights the fact that the situation has been exacerbated by the serious environmental damage caused by the war in Ukraine.

In particular, the EESC warns of the damage to people's mental and physical health, the degradation of ecosystems, air and water pollution and ground contamination, highlighting in particular the fragile nature of food security world-wide. To the EESC's mind, Russia's actions are akin to "ecocide"; it calls for such ecocide to be officially criminalised under EU law.

Lastly, the EESC highlights how vital it is to document, map and measure these repercussions so as to provide legal protection for the environment, to ensure that those responsible are held to account and to lay the groundwork for a green and socially just post-war recovery.