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Protection Civile et Operations d'Aide Humanitaire Européennes

DG ECHO’s approach to reducing the environmental footprint of humanitarian aid

What is our approach to reducing the environmental footprint of humanitarian aid?

The deepening climate and environmental crises require measures to reduce the climate and environmental footprint of humanitarian aid.

Taking into account environmental considerations is also integral to upholding the ‘Do No Harm’ principle. As a major donor of humanitarian assistance, the European Commission has a critical role to play to make change happen.

In establishing an ambitious position on reducing the environmental impact of its humanitarian aid operations, the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) is aligning its actions with the key pillars of the European Green Deal: climate neutrality, climate resilience, circular economy, zero pollution and biodiversity protection.


It is done by:

  • adopting a new way of working through the mainstreaming of an environmentally sustainable approach across projects, programmes and the organisation itself
  • taking a precautionary approach to mitigating environmental impacts.

Key areas of intervention for projects and programmes:

  • Provide clean energy solutions
  • Choose materials with a lower carbon footprint
  • Avoid plastic when possible
  • Green the organisation’s logistics and supply chain

What will we do?

We have elaborated the following indicative vision-setting timeline for the way forward.

  1. 2020-2021
    current efforts

    Organisational level

    • No change

    Project level

    • Reporting
    • Stronger references in financing decisions 
    • Priority given to projects addressing environmental impacts
    • No impact on funding eligibility

    ‘Greening’ DG ECHO

    • Complying with EMAS (Environmental Management System) at ECHO headquarters
    • Starting implementation of the ‘greening’ of the field network
  2. 2022-2023
    higher ambition

    Organisational level

    • Close dialogue with strategic international organisations, NGOs and UN bodies
    • More weight allocated to partners with environmental policies
    • General conditions for becoming and remaining a partner remain unchanged

    Project level

    • Reporting
    • Answers weighing into the appraisal of projects from 2023
    • Stronger requirements piloted with programmatic partners
    • Further details in upcoming thematic policy document, financing decisions and annexes
    • No impact on funding eligibility

    ‘Greening’ DG ECHO

    • Increasing ambition for sound environmental management at ECHO headquarters
    • Mandatory training for staff on environmental sustainability
    • Continued roll out of ‘greening’ of the ECHO field network
  3. 2024-onwards
    full ambition

    Organisational level

    • Environmental policies/EMS set as a requirement in future calls for expression of interest for certification and for existing partners
    • Corporate commitment, sound environmental policies and operational guidance from strategic international organisations and programmatic NGOs

    Project level

    • Reporting, against stronger, cross- cutting requirements
    • Requirement to conduct environmental impact screenings
    • Requirement to have mitigation measures incorporated into project design and implementation
    • Calculate and offset remaining carbon emissions
    • Further details in upcoming thematic policy document, financing decisions and annexes

    ‘Greening’ DG ECHO

    • Striving towards compliance with 2030 climate neutrality objective for the whole European Commission
    • Monitoring and carbon offsetting of carbon foot- print of staff and external guests’ travel
    • Continued roll out of ‘greening’ of the ECHO field network

Support from DG ECHO

  • Online training module and virtual classroom courses for EU humanitarian partners
  • Compendium of best practices and support tools & webinars on select topics
  • Piloting of innovative solutions and funding study/assessment projects
  • Dedicated thematic experts in the field, and tapping into environmental expertise in the development and peace and security sectors (leveraging the nexus)