Preview: Autumn 2018

EASAC member academies will deepen commitment to SDGs

In September 2018, EASAC will hold a workshop on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will offer its member academies the opportunity to discuss issues relating to the national reporting processes for the SDGs, thus further strengthening their "Science-Policy-Dialogue“ capacities. The activity perfectly aligns with EASAC’s core business of providing science-based advice from the European National Science Academies for a sustainable development of Europe in the fields of Biosciences, Environment and Energy. This workshop, organised together with the global network of academies, The InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), and funded by the Carnegie Foundation, aims to improve the academies’ contribution to the implementation of the SDGs, to which all UN Member States are committed (see here for more information). The implementation of these goals largely occurs at the national level and each government is working to align national priorities with international commitments. 

Global report on food and nutrition security to be launched
In autumn 2018, the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) will launch the fifth and final report from its on-going project on food and nutrition security and agriculture. This “global report” will incorporate insights from the four reports that were produced over the past 8 months by the four regional networks that compose IAP. EASAC is one of the regional networks of IAP, representing the academies of Europe, while the African, Asian, and American academies are also connected regionally. The global network IAP consists of over 130 National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering. Being part of the global network of academies contributes to one of EASAC’s strategic goals: to inform global policy frameworks from an EU perspective. Read EASAC's contribution to the IAP study "Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe”. 

Upcoming EASAC report: Sustainability of Europe’s soils
The pressures on maintaining the sustainability of Europe's soils and their ability to meet targets of food production, biodiversity, and preserving or increasing soil carbon content have been addressed in an EASAC project to which the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has given special support. The report “Sustainability of Europe’s Soils” will present solutions to prevent future soil degradation, consider how to secure the capacity of soils to deliver goods and services in a rapidly changing world and provide scientific guidance on how to support policy on sustainable and multifunctional soil management. The publication of this report is expected for October 2018 (email to receive an electronic copy immediately upon publication).

Upcoming EASAC report: Climate change and health
The EASAC Biosciences Programme worked on climate change and infectious disease a few years ago and discussed some aspects of the nexus between climate change, food systems and health in the recent report on food and nutrition security and agriculture. Currently, a working group is examining the range of issues for climate change and human health to discuss with European policy-makers and other stakeholders. With this project, we aim to highlight how to respond to, and prepare for, climate change from the health perspective in Europe, taking account of the growing evidence base to guide decisions and support innovation. Effective policy making requires better understanding of what are the acute and chronic health impacts, what drives them and what mediates them. We explore where there is consensus on key questions, identify where further assessment of the issues is required, and clarify options for policy development.

EASAC welcomes contributions of written evidence to this project: please send your contributions to Contributions will be particularly welcome if received before 31 July 2018.

Summer 2018

Carbon neutrality: Latest EASAC commentary urges policy-makers to reconsider current approach to forest biomass

Continuing several years of work on the issue of forests and sustainability (see EASAC report 26), on 14 June EASAC published a brief commentary responding to the recent EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED II). In the commentary, EASAC re-emphasises its original points – notably concerning the time dependence and simplistic nature of the concept of carbon neutrality – and strongly encourages policy-makers to reconsider their approach to the use of forest biomass for energy. Whilst it may be too late to change the text of the directive itself, policy-makers in the EU Member States could and should implement it in ways which reflect these scientific realities, and which would contribute positively to their commitments to the Paris Agreement. 

The commentary attracted significant interest on Twitter by people surprised at the glaring oversight in RED II, and it formed the basis for an article on Inside Climate. It was also featured in IISD SDG Knowledge Hub, Biofuels Digest, and Energy Reporters.

EASAC sessions at EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF)
EASAC held two sessions at the recent EuroScience Open Forum in Toulouse, France. The first took place on 12 July 2018 and focused on EASAC’s homeopathy statement, which has continued to inform policy over the past nine months. Speakers included Professor Dame Anne Glover (Glasgow), Professor Dan Larhammar (Uppsala), Professor Jos van der Meer (Nijmegen), Professor Beate Sperlagh (Budapest), and EASAC’s Biosciences Director Dr Robin Fears. The session was covered in an article this week in Deutsche Welle, adding to the media coverage in outlets such as AFP / Sciences et Avenir, Ars Technica, Gizmodo, multiple articles in Le Figaro, The Independent (which was re-published by MSN), Le Monde, Popular Science, extensive discussion on Reddit, as well as tweets from stakeholders across Europe and beyond. The second session, on Friday 13 July, focused on EASAC’s report on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe. Read the live tweets on EASAC’s Twitter profile, @EASACNews for quotes from the speakers, who included Professor Tim Benton (Leeds), Dr Aifric O’Sullivan (Dublin), Dr Claudia Canales (Geneva), Professor Volker ter Meulen (Würzburg), and EASAC’s Dr Robin Fears.

New EASAC Press and Communications Group for stronger academy cooperation
During its last meeting, at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, EASAC Council decided to strive for stronger linkages between the communications and press teams of EASAC’s member academies and the EASAC Secretariat. A first virtual meeting of the EASAC Press and Communications Group (PCG) was held on 25 June and had an enthusiastic response from the attendees. All academies’ representatives in the group are looking forward to working together more closely, trying to build independent science into EU policies.
Spring 2018

Vaccination in Europe: EASAC and FEAM join forces to urge policy-makers to improve roadmap

With the dramatic increase in measles in Europe – a four-fold increase from 2016 to 2017, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization – and the urgent need for vaccines protecting against infections for which no vaccines currently exist, the European Commission drafted a roadmap for ‘Strengthened cooperation against vaccine preventable diseases’. In a statement on the roadmap, EASAC and FEAM, the Federation of European Academies of Medicine,  called for vaccination to be addressed urgently and hence offered recommendations for improving the roadmap. The EASAC-FEAM statement addresses vaccine coverage; vaccine hesitancy; vaccine availability; and new vaccine development. The joint statement was featured in an editorial in The Lancet in April.

EASAC member academies call for “food systems” approach and end to policy silos
The EASAC report “Opportunities and Challenges for Research on Food and Nutrition Security and Agriculture in Europe” was officially launched in Brussels in April 2018. The report formed part of a global study led by IAP-The InterAcademy Partnership, the global network of academies. The launch event was held at the Palais des Académies of the Belgian Academies with an audience of 60+ people and 200+ people who watched the livestream.

At this launch and in the report, EASAC called for European policy-makers to urgently re-think their approach to food and agriculture. Calling for a “food systems approach”, the European national science academies say that the current siloed policy approach to food, agriculture, climate change, and health – both at the EU and Member State levels – is not the way forward, particularly if ambitious targets such as the Paris Agreement are going to be met.

Speakers included Professor Volker ter Meulen, the President of IAP, EASAC Biosciences Chair and Project Co-chair; Professor Joachim von Braun, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Project Co-chair; Mr John Bell, European Commission, DG Research, Director of Bioeconomy; Ms Karina Angelieva, Counsellor for Education and Research, Permanent Representation of the Republic of Bulgaria to the European Union.

Dr Robin Fears, EASAC Biosciences Programme Director, moderated a panel discussion with Mr Thomas Waitz, Member of the European Parliament, Mr Adrian Leip, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (Unit D.5 Food Security), Professor Anne-Marie Hermansson, Biology and Biological Engineering, Food and Nutrition Science, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Dr Aleksandra Malyska, Executive Manager, Plants for the Future, European Technology Platform, and Dr Nevena Alexandrova-Stefanova, Agricultural Innovation Systems and Knowledge Sharing Officer, FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia.

Media coverage of the report included an opinion editorial in Chemistry and Industry, articles in Nouvel Observateur, ENDS Report, IISG SDG Knowledge Hub, Agencia EFE, and, among many others.

Extreme weather data reveals four-fold increase in floods since 1980
In March, EASAC published a short statement to update its 2013 report on extreme weather. In  “Extreme weather events in Europe: Preparing for climate change adaptation – An update on EASAC’s 2013 study”, new data from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Climate Scientists of MunichRe show that the trends in the number of extreme weather events identified in the EASAC report of 2013 had continued. Overall, climate-related events have become more frequent over the past 36 years, with a significant uptick in floods and other hydrological events compared even with five years ago. Given the continued increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, EASAC calls for stronger attention to climate change adaptation across the European Union: leaders and policy-makers must improve the adaptability of Europe’s infrastructure and social systems to a changing climate.

The update also reviewed evidence on key drivers of extreme events. A major point of debate remains whether the Gulf Stream, or Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), will just decline or could ‘switch off’ entirely with substantial implications for Northwest Europe’s climate. The report also summarised recent science on the meandering jet stream and possible links to Arctic amplification, and the many studies which have assessed the degree to which climate change has contributed to extreme droughts, floods, heatwaves, and other events around the world.

Though brief, this statement attracted significant media attention, including Agence France Presse, The Boston Globe, The Daily Mail, De Morgen, Deutsche Welle (EN version), Euractiv, Forbes, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Futurism, The Guardian, Inside Climate, Nouvel Observateur, The Times, as well as Yahoo and Google News, extensive discussion on Reddit, and was featured in the Climate Denial Crock of the Week.

Negative emission technologies: ‘limited realistic potential’ to halt global warming
The EASAC report, “Negative emission technologies: What role in meeting Paris Agreement targets?” was published in February and presented in March 2018. In this report, an EASAC working group evaluated the potential contribution of negative emission technologies (NETs) to allow humanity to meet the Paris Agreement’s targets of avoiding dangerous climate change. They found that NETs have “limited realistic potential” to halt increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at the scale envisioned in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios. This report reviewed the literature on the following candidate NETs: reforestation, afforestation, carbon-friendly agriculture, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCs), enhanced weathering, ocean fertilisation, or direct air capture and carbon storage (DACCs). EASAC’s meta-analysis found that the amounts of carbon which needed to be removed post-2050 varied considerably but were likely to be in the many gigatons (i.e. billions of tons) per year in the light of current inadequate mitigation measures post-Paris.

While some NETs could certainly be deployed at million tons scale, the study concluded that IPCC models which envisaged multiple gigaton (Gt) scale removals of carbon post-2050 were highly speculative and should not be considered as a credible option when addressing current climate change policy.  Moreover, the preferred technology in IPCC models, BECCS, was particularly uncertain with credible scenarios of it worsening (rather than contributing) to climate change mitigation. Priority thus needed to remain with mitigation.

A press conference was organised to accompany the publication of the NETs report. Speakers included Professor Michael Norton, EASAC Environment Programme Director; Professor John Shepherd, Emeritus Professor at University of Southampton and a former director of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton; and Professor Gideon Henderson, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford.

A policy roundtable was held in the European Parliament together with the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) on 8 March 2018 to launch the report with EU policy-makers. At this event, speakers included Professor Thierry Courvoisier, EASAC President, and Professor Michael Norton as well as a roundtable with Ms Hanna Aho of FERN; Ms Kirsty Anderson, Senior Advisor, Global CCS Institute; Ms Maria Velkova, Policy Officer, Finance for Low Carbon Innovation, DG Climate Action, European Commission; and Mr Gregor Erbach (EPRS).

Press coverage has been global as well as European, both as breaking news and as part of on-going stories: Ars Technica, BBC, Bloomberg (1), Bloomberg (2), Carbon Brief, Daily Kos, The Daily Mail, Deutschlandfunk Radio, Earther, Euractiv (1), Euractiv (2), El Pais, The Guardian, The Independent, Nature, New York Magazine, The New York Times, Nouvel Observateur, Quartz, Scientific American, TAZ, Thomson Reuters Foundation, WDR, among many others.

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EASAC - the European Academies' Science Advisory Council - is formed by the national science academies of the EU Member States, Norway, and Switzerland to enable them to collaborate with each other in providing advice to European policy-makers. FIND OUT MORE


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