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What is the EU Green Week and how can you participate?

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By Euronews
In this Dec. 16, 2009 file photo, steam and smoke rise from a coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
In this Dec. 16, 2009 file photo, steam and smoke rise from a coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

Each year, pollution is directly involved in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Europeans and the devastating loss of biodiversity, a grim fact the European Union aims to mitigate with its latest Green Week.

The annual event, which brings interested parties together to debate the bloc's environmental policy, kicks off today (Monday). 

Its theme this year is about looking at moving towards zero pollution. 

Pollution -- through the air we breathe, the water we drink or the land we grow our food on -- is a major cause of disease and premature death, according to the European Commission,

At least 379,000 people across the EU and the UK died prematurely in 2018 because of air pollution alone, latest official figures show. This number is 60,000 lower than it was a decade earlier but remains "far too high" for Brussels.

The European Commission has taken several member states to court including Italy, Poland and France over their levels of small and fine particles in the air, which were found to be in breach of EU rules.

But pollution's impact is not limited to human health, it also endangers the planet's health being one of the main reasons for the loss of biodiversity, threatening the survival of more than one million of the planet's estimated eight million plant and animal species.

All this can be prevented and the European Commission has unveiled an action plan Towards a Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil earlier this month stressing that the fight against pollution is also a fight for fairness and equality.

"Pollution's most harmful impacts on human health are typically borne by the most vulnerable groups. These include children, who can suffer serious long*term harm on their development, people with medical conditions, older persons, persons with disabilities and those living in poorer socio-economic conditions," the action plan states.

"Worldwide, low- and middle-income countries bear the brunt of pollution-related illnesses, with nearly 92 per cent of pollution-related deaths," it added.

Some 45 sessions, discussions and debates are available online this week as part of the line-up.They have been split into four broad themes: health, biodiversity and ecosystems, production and consumption and enabling change in the EU and abroad.

These include discussions on "inspiring good habits — behavioural change through storytelling and tools", "clean seas with a sustainable blue economy — challenges and opportunities" or "safe and sustainable-by-design: from greenwashing to competitive advantage."

The full schedule is available here.