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Call for the creation of a
European Foundation for the Prevention of Environmental and Health Crises

Scientific Colloquium

Towards a European Foundation for the Prevention of Environmental and Health Crises

Académie des Sciences, June 8th, 2022

Detailed program and speakers under discussion

We are facing the crisis without having prepared it. Others threaten: pandemics, panzootics, climate change disasters, geological events with a global impact...

We must prepare ourselves with the whole planet for the next disaster, but preserving Europe's common basis, social solidarity, political democracy and concern for the common good, of which its citizens are proud.

The necessary response from governments is not enough. Civil society must play its part, from citizen mobilization to the involvement of the wealthiest. A European foundation, funded by them, would induce a capacity to react more quickly to unexpected challenges. A call to create such a foundation was launched by 77 scientists from Europe in June 2020. A meeting will be held on 8 June 2022 under the French Presidency of the European Union to promote this project.

77 scientists in 16 countries call for a philantropic foundation

June 2020

The countries of the calling scientists

The advent of SARS-COVID-2 has plunged the world into an unprecedented health crisis. The pandemic’s rapid, inevitable spread due to the countless individual journeys across our globalised planet stands in stark contrast to the difficulties experienced by governments that are trying to handle it --and whose management strategies seem to widely diverge. Even long-established geopolitical rivalries may have become all the more acute.

The pandemic arose just as we had been bracing ourselves, over the past several years now, for another major crisis: global warming. This will radically impact the habitability of low-lying areas; upend agriculture and our food supply; and very likely alter the mechanisms for the spread of infectious diseases. It is hard to anticipate all of the ensuing humanitarian crises and migrations.

At a time when China and the United States each seek to impose their respective political and social views, we must preserve the common ground that prevails in Europe, one that makes the majority of its citizens proud: based in social solidarity, political democracy and concern for the public good. As we know, social inequalities tend to arise in any crisis, with the most underprivileged groups and individuals generally being hurt worst of all. To deal with such challenges, we expect that European governments will assume their responsibilities; but the European Union needs to strengthen its crisis-management capacities to properly chart a course through chaotic circumstances toward more peaceful times. It must demonstrate its ability to coordinate aid towards the regions and populations that are most severely impacted by health or environmental crises and that require a strong show of solidarity.

As the current pandemic serves to remind us, however, such institutional responses are hampered by complex administrations whose response time is ill-suited for major emergencies. The mobilisation of civil society must also, therefore, take place. Efforts by high-net-worth individuals could bring about much swifter responses to unexpected challenges, while usefully complementing those measures decreed by European States and the European Union.

In the United States the initiatives by American billionaires countering the pandemic are too many to list; and they pursue a philanthropic tradition that constitutes 1.95% of the US GDP. In Europe, where philanthropy is much less historically ingrained, there are indeed some notable efforts in education, in the sciences and on social welfare, but overall such gifts only total 0.65% of the GDP. Gestures to confront Covid-19 on the part of wealthy Europeans have been, to say the least, rare and far between.

Thus, we call on these wealthy individuals to take part in a joint enterprise of European citizenship by creating a “European Foundation for the Prevention of Environmental and Health Crises”. It would be endowed with an initial capital of 20 Bn€ offered by donors from each of the twenty-seven EU countries. An average gift of 200 million euros from 100 donors would suffice to reach this goal. This is hardly a huge effort when compared to the 50 Bn$ capital endowment that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates contributed to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation--more than 2.5 times what we are here proposing. Partially expendable, this endowment could be deployed with unrivaled response speed in extreme situations via the simple decision of its Council of Donors: to thereby intervene in the most severely afflicted zones of the European Union or anywhere else in the world, if need be. In periods of calm, and upon the recommendation of its independent Scientific Advisory Committee, the Foundation would use the annual revenue from its capital--on the order of 500 M€-- both to fund academic research in fields relevant to health/environment issues and to support strategic projects of socially and technically innovative companies — with the high-stakes intent of forestalling future crises.

Uniting European donor efforts under the aegis of one single foundation will provide the means for large-scale action, commensurate with Europe’s historical status, that will be able to address health and environmental challenges for many years to come. This initiative should certainly not be a substitute for a strong engagement of governments, in accordance with the European tradition of public investments which uphold social cohesion. However, such European commitment by its wealthiest individuals should confirm that everyone has the will and capacity to contribute as much as they can to our shared destiny – a pledge of solidarity and social élan that will strengthen us all.

The list of scientists who endorsed the call

Adriano AGUZZI (Pathology, University of Zurich, Switzerland)
Rudolf AMANN (Environmental Microbiology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology Bremen, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany)
Martin ANDLER (Mathematics, Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin, France)
Eva-Mari ARO (Plant Biology, University of Turku, Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, Finland)
Frédéric BARRAS (Microbiology, Institut Pasteur Paris, France)
Françoise BARRÉ-SINOUSSI (Virology, Institut Pasteur Paris, INSERM, Academy of Sciences, Nobel Laureate, France)
Roberto BASSI (Bioenergetics, University of Verona, National Academy dei Lincei, Italy)
Mónica BETTENCOURT-DIAS (Cell Biology, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, University of Lisbon, Portugal)
Christoph BINDER (Vascular Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Austria)
Ralph BOCK (Plant Biology, Max Planck Institute, Potsdam, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany)
Ulla BONAS (Biology, University of Halle, Vice-President, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany)
Paola BONFANTE (Plant Biology, University of Turin, National Academy dei Lincei, Italy)
Donato BOSCIA (Virology, Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection, Bari, Italy)
Marcella BONCHIO (Organic Chemistry, University of Padua, Italy)
Josep CASADESÙS (Microbiology, University of Sevilla, Spain)
Luigi CASELLA (Chemistry, University of Pavia, Italy)
Daniel COHEN (Economics, École normale supérieure Paris, France)
Pascale COSSART (Microbiology, Institut Pasteur Paris, Academy of Sciences, France)
Roberto DANOVARO (Marine Ecology, University of Ancona, Italy)
Mathias DEWATRIPONT (Economics, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)
Stefanie DIMMELER (Molecular Cardiology, University of Frankfurt, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina Germany)
Carlo DOGLIONI (Geology, University of Rome, National Academy dei Lincei and Academy of the XL, Italy)
Jozef DULAK (Medical Biotechnology, Jagiellonian University of Kraków, Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, Poland)
Gérard EBERL (Immunology, Institut Pasteur Paris, France)
Alain FISCHER (Immunology, Collège de France, Paris, Academy of Medicine, Academy of Sciences, France )
Marc FONTECAVE (Chemistry, Collège de France, Paris, Academy of Sciences, France)
Guido FORNI (Immunology, University of Turin, National Academy dei Lincei, Italy)
Francisco GARCIA-del PORTILLO (Microbiology, National Center for Biotechnology (CNB-CSIC), Madrid, Spain)
Piero GENOVESI (Ecology, Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, Chair of IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group Rome, Italy)
Rafael GIRALDO (Biotechnology, National Center for Biotechnology (CNB-CSIC), Madrid, Spain)
Michel GOLDMAN (Immunology, I3h Institute, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)
Michael GRÄTZEL (Chemistry, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Swiss Academy of Technical Sciences, Switzerland, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany)
Göran HANSSON (Vascular Immunology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Nobel Foundation, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden)
Gerald HAUG (Climatology, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany)
Reinhard HÜTTL (Geoecologist, German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany)
Daniela JACOB (Climate Change, Climate Service Center Germany, Helmholtz Center Geesthacht, Germany)
Sirpa JALKANEN (Immunology, Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Finnish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Finland)
Stefan JANSSON (Plant Biology, Umea University, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden)
Antonio JUAREZ (Microbiology, University of Barcelona and Institut de Bioenginyeria de Catalunya, Spain)
Olle KÄMPE (Endocrinology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden)
Eric KARSENTI (Marine Biology, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Scientific Director of Tara-Ocean Expedition, CNRS, Academy of Sciences, France)
Sylvia KNAPP (Infection Biology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria)
Markku KULMALA (Atmospheric Science, University of Helsinki, Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, Finland)
Marc LECUIT (Microbiology, Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, Institut Pasteur Paris, Necker Hospital, Université de Paris, France)
Thomas LENGAUER (Computational Biology, Director, Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Saarbrücken, Member of the Council of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany)
Roland LILL (Biochemistry, University of Marburg, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany)
Ewa ŁOJKOWSKA (Plant Biology, University of Gdańsk, Poland)
Julius LUKEŠ (Parasitology, Institute of Parasitology, České Budějovice, Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic)
Jochem MAROTZKE (Physical Oceanography, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany)
Jos van der MEER (Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Academy of Sciences, The Netherlands)
Andres METSPALU (Genetics, University of Tartu, Academy of Science, Estonia)
Franco MIGLIETTA (Global Change, Institute for Bioeconomy, Florence, Italy)
José MOURA (Chemistry, NOVA University Lisbon, Portugal)
Pierre NETTER (Genetics, Sorbonne Université, Paris, France)
Staffan NORMARK (Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Royal Academy of Sciences, Sweden)
Gunnar ÖQUIST (Plant Physiology, Umeå University, Past General Secretary of Swedish Natural Science Research Council, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden)
Jan POTEMPA (Microbiology, University of Louisville School of Dentistry, USA, Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Poland)
Maurizio PRATO (Organic Chemistry and Materials, University of Trieste, National Academy dei Lincei, Italy, CIC biomaGUNE, Spain)
Pere PUIGDOMENECH (Plant and Animal Genomics, CSIC-Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics, Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona, Spain)
Krzysztof PYRC (Virology, Virogenetics, Malopolska Centre of Biotechnology, Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Poland)
Lluis QUINTANA-MURCI (Evolutionary Genetics, Institut Pasteur Paris, Collège de France, Paris, Academy of Sciences, France)
Miroslav RADMAN (Genetics, Founder of the Mediterraean Institute for Life Science, Academy of Sciences, France and Croatia)
Rino RAPPUOLI (Vaccinology, Imperial College, Royal Society, United Kingdom)
Markus REICHSTEIN (Climate Change, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany)
Félix REY (Virology, Institut Pasteur, Paris, Academy of Sciences, France)
Francesco SALAMINI (Plant Genetics, University of Milano, National Academy dei Lincei, Italy)
Philippe SANSONETTI (Microbiology, Institut Pasteur Paris, Collège de France, Academy of Sciences, France)
Joaquim SEGALÉS (Veterinary Sciences, Autonomous University of Barcelona and Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology , Spain)
Stig STRÖMHOLM (Private and International Law, Uppsala University, Academia Europaea-London, Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, Sweden)
Bo SUNDQVIST (Ion Physics, Uppsala University, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden)
Alain TEDGUI (Vascular Biology, Paris-Cardiovascular Research Center, INSERM, Université de Paris, France)
Riccardo VALENTINI (Global Change and Climatogy, University of Viterbo, Italy)
Robert VAUTARD (Climatology, Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute, Guyancourt, CNRS, France)
Jörg VOGEL (Infection Biology, University of Würzburg, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany)
Francis-André WOLLMAN (Bioenergetics, Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology Paris, CNRS, Academy of Sciences, France)
Andreas ZEIHER (Cardiology, University of Frankfurt, Germany)

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