Environment Commissioner Janez PotoÄnik tells Congress in Rotterdam about measures being taken to tackle air pollution, writes Caelia Quinault.
European member states have made significant progress in recent years in reducing air pollution, according to EU Environment Commissioner Janez PotoÄnik.
But, they are still some way from achieving the European Commissionâ€™s objective of seeing no significant impact of air pollution on human health or the environment.
Mr PotoÄnikâ€™s comments came at the Congress of European Advisory Council on Transport and Environment in Rotterdam yesterday (October 11), at which he discussed the need for a shift towards a more sustainable transport system.
On the subject of air quality, he said the use of cleaner fuels by ships and the use of shore side electricity while at berth were among a number of â€˜incrementalâ€™ steps introduced recently by the EU which would improve air quality.
But, despite these achievements,Â he said there would still be over 200,000 premature deaths every year due to air pollutionÂ in 2020.
He said: â€œWe are still some way from achieving our objective of no significant negative impacts of air pollution on human health and the environment.
“This is why, I have launched a comprehensive review of the EU air legislation and declared 2013 the European â€œYear of Airâ€. The objective is to close existing gaps in our legislation and to raise awareness on the importance of our daily choices, in particular in relation to transport, and the impact these have on our health and well-being.â€
Mr PotoÄnikÂ went on toÂ outlineÂ a number ofÂ ways in which the Commission will drive improvements in air quality.Â These include:
Responding toÂ those whoÂ might claim thatÂ air pollution measures are too costly in times of economic hardship, Mr PotoÄnik insisted that air pollution imposes much greater costs on the economy â€“ estimated at between â‚¬189 – â‚¬609 billion (Â£152-491 billion) a year in 2020.
He added that tacklingÂ air quality would in fact give European member states a competitive edge in the emerging world market for air quality products.
He said: â€œThose who argue that it would be too costly are on weak ground even from a strict competiveness perspective. Let us put aside all the health and environmental benefits for a moment â€“important as they are â€“ and look instead at the economic arguments: Let’s take the US and China as examples.
â€œWe know that the US air quality legislation and transport emission limits are among the most stringent in the world â€“ with California leading the way. We also know that China is now stepping up its air quality monitoring requirements and emission controls significantly. And we know that other emerging economies will follow suit. This will create an enormous demand for products and industrial processes that emit less. So a strengthened air quality and sustainable transport regime in the EU will actually benefit European competitiveness by giving us a lead in these growing markets. Sustainable mobility is therefore not only an environmental objective, but also an economic opportunity.â€