Speaking during Green Week 2013, environment commissioner Janez PotoÄnik points to progress already made and sets out air quality objectives
There has been an â€œabsolute decouplingâ€ between economic growth and air pollution, EU environment commissioner Janez PotoÄnik declared yesterday (June 4).
In speech to launch EU Green Week 2013 in Brussels, Mr PotoÄnik suggested there was no reason why economic growth had to come at the expense of air quality.
He said: â€œI believe we can engineer a transition to a more sustainable growth model â€“ one where economic growth is decoupled from resource use. The issue of air quality is a good case in point. This is one of few areas where we have seen an absolute decoupling between economic growth and emissions.â€
Mr PotoÄnik also put forward four key objectives for the EUâ€™s review of air quality policy, due in autumn 2013, such as ensuring full compliance with existing air quality policies and international commitments by 2020 at the latest.
Firstly, he said Europe needed to limit emissions from bulldozers and excavators, as well as from small scale combustion energy plants and agriculture, adding that he hoped an upgraded National Emissions Ceilings Directive would reflect international commitments for 2020 and also put in place new ceilings for 2025 or 2030.
The second objective, he said, was to set out a clean air vision for beyond 2020, including achieving all of the World Health Organisation (WHO)â€™s air quality standards, which are currently stricter than EU legal standards.
Thirdly, Mr PotoÄnik called for concrete EU measures to reduce emissions where people live and work, with a focus on small-scale combustion, agriculture and shipping.
He added that the final objective was to â€œopen up opportunities for European business in the rapidly expanding markets for pollution abatement technology and servicesâ€.
Commenting on the economic benefits of improving air quality, the environment commissioner said that the cost of air pollution for society was estimated to be in the region of â‚¬330-950 billion (Â£281-810 billion) per year.
â€œActing on air pollution is therefore not just an environmental and health concern, but also an economic imperative. More than a cost, it is an investment into a healthy and productive society,â€ he said. â€œI am delighted that we have the opportunity of Green Week to discuss how we can make that investment.â€
Under the banner â€˜Cleaner Air for Allâ€™, the 13th annual Green Week conference on European environmental policy takes place in Brussels, Belgium, this week from June 4-7. Up to 3,000 participants â€“ including stakeholders, NGOs, government representatives and EU officials â€“ are set to gather for the three-day event to discuss air-related issues.
The conference includes a 40-stand exhibition, a showcase of alternative road vehicles, the LIFE Environment award ceremony and various speakers involved in environmental policy across Europe.
Mr PotoÄnik said: â€œGreen Week provides an important platform where policymakers, representatives from local communities and NGOs, public authorities and businesses can exchange ideas on how improve the air we breathe â€“ we are constantly open to suggestions on how to improve our current legislation.â€