Update on the EU air quality legislation

Published by Marie-Amélie Brun on

5th of July, 2016

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have published a report  during the first trimester of 2016, revealing that 80% of the world cities have failed to reach the WHO’s advised safe levels of air quality. It showed that in Ireland and Britain 11 regions breached the safe limit set for PM10 (Atmospheric particulate matter).

At the current EU level, we are able to link 400,000 deaths to air pollution every year. In response to these alarming figures, the European Commission was responsible for finding a method for regulating pollution levels and to reduce the European the rate of air pollution.

Their mission was to update the directive from 1999, concerning the national rates of atmospheric pollutant coming from industrial, transport, energy and agricultural activity. After 10 days of negotiation they manage to find an agreement on this issue.

The European Bureau, which applauded the work of the Commission which has been a major source of change at the environmental level in the EU, however it regrets the lack of firmness of the text in this case.

“EU member states have agreed a weak National Emissions Ceiling (NEC) deal, putting industry and agriculture’s interests before people’s health” EEB has declared.

If the measures taken by the Commission do contribute to an improvement of the situation it still fails to enforce measures which will air pollution.

“European action to cut air pollution is welcome and will help Europeans breathe more easily. But all in all this is a missed opportunity that will still leave tens of thousands of citizens exposed to avoidable air pollution.” as explained by the EEB.

The Parliament and The European Commission had proposed an ambitious text to tackle the air pollution problem, during this discussion it has been modified by the member states.

Agriculture was one of the most discussed points. Several countries negotiated to reduce these levels, for example France initially had to reduce the ammonia emission levels by 23% but managed to only reduce these levels by 13%.

Also, methane, a great contributor to air pollution, was deleted from the text, leaving this air pollutant without legislation.

However on the 12th of July, the text will be put to vote to the Environment Committee and it can still be modified during this process.

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Marie-Amélie Brun

Marie-Amélie is a contributor to the Green News. She is currently completing a Masters in International Cooperation and Multilingual Communication at the University Grenoble Alpes.