The European Environment Bureau urges the EU to â€œfirmly rejectâ€ calls for any weakening in air quality limits in a memorandum issued this week
The EU must â€œfirmly rejectâ€ any calls for weakened or more flexible air quality limits under its current Irish presidency, according to the European Environment Bureau (EEB).
In a memorandum to the new Irish presidency published online this week calling for action on a variety of environmental issues, the EEB said that current EU limits are â€œinsufficient to protect peopleâ€™s healthâ€.
The EEB, an NGO representing around 140 environmental citizensâ€™ organisations in EU member states, also called for stricter EU emissions limits, which it said would save member states money and improve quality of life.
Ireland will hold the presidency of the EU for the first six months of 2013, which has been labelled the â€˜Year of Airâ€™ with a wide-ranging review of Europeâ€™s air quality policies due to report back in September (see airqualitynews.com story).
The memorandum to the presidency urges stricter source limits on emissions from specific sectors, including shipping, non-road mobile machinery (NRMM), road transport, agriculture and small scale combustion installations.
It states: â€œAll those sectors show great potential for reduction which should be realised during the 2013 Year of Air. Source legislation in all those sectors would be the most cost-effective way of improving air quality and would help member states and local authorities to comply with ambient air quality standards (Directive 2008/50/EC).â€
The memorandum sets out the EEBâ€™s â€™10 Green Testsâ€™ for the Irish presidency, with â€˜Support the development of an ambitious air packageâ€™ listed at number eight.
According to EEB secretary general Jeremy Wates: â€œThis memorandum reflects the issues that the EEB would like to see advanced during the Irish presidency.â€
He said: â€œThese tests will be used to evaluate, at the end of June 2013, the performance of the Presidency in the six months to come.â€
He added: â€œIn the run-up to the Presidency, the Irish Government has demonstrated an open approach and a willingness to enter into dialogue with the EEB and its member organizations. We look forward to continuing this dialogue throughout the Presidency and beyond.â€
As a result, according to the EEB, the Irish presidency has a â€œgreat opportunity to start discussions in the Council and with the European Commission which will lead to the adoption of a policy package that will allow Europe to achieve â€˜levels of air quality that do not give rise to significant negative impacts on, and risks to human health and environmentâ€™ as foreseen in the 2005 Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution.â€
Several regional authorities in industrial areas in Europe have grouped together to form the Air Quality Initiative of Regions, which has come in for criticism from the likes of Clean Air London for supposedly seeking to â€œweakenâ€ EU air quality laws.
However, the EEB memorandum states that the Irish presidency â€œâ€¦should firmly reject any call for weakening or â€œflexibilityâ€ with respect to existing ambient air quality limits which are set for the protection of human health.â€
It adds: â€œIt should on the contrary look for further tightening of existing standards for the years to come. In comparison with the WHO recommendations for ambient air quality, current EU limits are insufficient to protect peopleâ€™s health, in particular when it comes to the concentrations of the smallest particles (PM2.5).
â€œThe implementation of the WHO recommended limits for PM2.5 in 25 large European cities alone could provide savings of â‚¬31.5 billion annually, including savings on health expenditures, absenteeism and intangible costs such as well-being, life expectancy and quality of life.â€
The memorandum to the Irish presidency of the EU is available on the EEB website.