Air pollution causes more than 400,000 premature deaths per year. It is the largest environmental risk to health in Europe and has a direct negative effect on the environment. This must stop.
The Ambient Air Quality Directives have been only partially effective so far. Several pieces of legislation have already been passed but implementation is slow to follow. The European Parliament last week adopted a report pushing governments to improve their record of implementing air quality laws. It also calls for the alignment of EU standards on four main pollutants with the recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Through this important report, the EU Parliament proposes to update the EU air quality standards and align them with WHO guidelines, which should also cover non-regulated pollutants with relevant health impacts in the EU, such as ultrafine particles, black carbon, mercury and ammonia.
Air quality should be prioritised in all EU legislation, including in all EU emissions legislation, such as climate, energy, transport, industry, agriculture and waste. Road and maritime transport, agriculture and energy production must rapidly step up their efforts to deliver their fair share towards cleaner air.
S&D MEP and rapporteur on the report, Javi López, said: “The current Covid-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of putting the health of citizens first. Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to health in Europe. The EU needs to act consequently adopting ambitious new policies to guarantee clean air.”
“We need to revise and improve the current Ambient Air Quality Directives with measures such as the alignment of EU air quality standards with the WHO guidelines and the latest scientific advice, the improvement of the representativeness and transparency of the monitoring network, or the establishment of a more effective infringement procedure.”
“This must be accompanied by other initiatives, such as the promotion of a new model of green cities and sustainable urban mobility. In the face of the announcement of the Zero Pollution Action Plan, the majority of the European Parliament stands up for greater action and a major ambition towards air quality.”
“The European Green Deal should put forward measures aimed at reducing air pollution caused by those sectors which cause the highest volume of emissions. We expect, on this crucial challenge, an EU action plan towards zero pollution in air, water and soil.”Jytte Guteland
S&D coordinator in the environment committee, Jytte Guteland, added: “This report sends strong signals to the European Commission about how seriously the European Parliament takes the issue of air quality. We want to see sharper measures to achieve cleaner air and protect the health of our citizens.”
“The European Green Deal should put forward measures aimed at reducing air pollution caused by those sectors which cause the highest volume of emissions. We expect, on this crucial challenge, an EU action plan towards zero pollution in air, water and soil.”
“We are frankly surprised on how the EPP has tried to dilute such an important part of the report, namely the need to update the EU’s limit values to be finally in line with WHO guidelines. Short sighted economic interests can never come before public health and the environment.”
“We should not be talking about boosting health and beating cancer, to then undermine efforts that actually do the job. Europe’s Green Deal committed us all to promoting a healthy environment in the interest of citizens’ health, and that is what we will continue to do.”Frédérique Ries
MEP Frédérique Ries (MR, BE), rapporteur for the Renew Europe group, is happy with the outcome, especially in light of the strong opposition: “We now have an ambition that matches the problem. At the same time, the obstruction of the EPP, the largest group in the European Parliament, says a great deal. A report which was in principle consensual, was almost hijacked for reasons clearly linked to German political issues.”
“So I’m relieved we got there in the end. We should not be talking about boosting health and beating cancer, to then undermine efforts that actually do the job. Europe’s Green Deal committed us all to promoting a healthy environment in the interest of citizens’ health, and that is what we will continue to do.”
MEP Vlad Gheorghe (USR, RO), shadow rapporteur on the file in the transport committee, also underlines the importance of this report: “Sustainable transport is key in achieving zero-pollution goals and improve air quality. National, regional and local authorities need to make full use of EU funds and Commission expertise to guarantee good road infrastructure, green urban design and reliable air quality monitoring network.”