Proposed EU air quality limits ‘too high’, NGO claims

Air pollution limits proposed by the European Commission up to 2030 are ‘too high’ and give Member States too long to meet them, according to the European Environment Bureau (EEB).

In December 2013, the Commission published its long-awaited package of air quality measures, which included a tightening of national limits for six major pollutants for 2020 and 2030 (see airqualitynews.com).

Map showing annual mean concentrations of PM2.5 in Europe in 2010 (red dots signify the highest levels of pollution)

Map showing annual mean concentrations of PM2.5 in Europe in 2010 (red dots signify the highest levels of pollution)

But the EEB believes the reductions sought are “regrettably low compared to what could have been achieved by switching fuel use, increasing energy efficiency or promoting more sustainable modes of transport such as walking and cycling”.

The comments from the EEB – which represents 140 environmental organisations – follow warnings from the European Environment Agency (EEA) last week (March 14) that concentrations of particulate matter PM10 were ‘unusually high’ in parts of Western Europe, with a temporary car ban introduced in Paris to try to abate the problem.

As a result, the EEB yesterday (March 18) said the European Parliament and EU Member States had a “crucial opportunity to improve EU air quality if they significantly strengthen the package of air pollution measures proposed by the Commission”.

And, the EEB also said that as they stand, the Commission’s proposals would leave “enormous health problems unaddressed”, with 260,000 premature air pollution deaths estimated each year from 2030 onwards.

Louise Duprez, EEB senior policy officer for air, commented: “The old mantra ‘prevention is better than cure’ has rarely been more pertinent. The huge costs of air pollution could be saved if only governments would prevent air pollution before it reached these crisis levels.”

Maria Arnold of the Healthy Air Campaign and ClientEarth in the UK, said: “The UK have been shown up by other EU Member States in recent days – despite also suffering a serious pollution event they failed to issue a full smog alert, or take any proactive measures as seen in France and Belgium.”

She added: “The UK government needs to wake up and push for ambitious EU action.”