Rumours circulate in Brussels that Commission President Juncker and Vice President Timmermans could scrap proposed air quality legislation
Fears are growing among politicians and air quality campaigners that the proposed Clean Air Package of proposed EU legislation could be scrapped, amid rumours that the proposals will not be on the European Commission’s agenda for 2015.
Developed by the previous Commission under the stewardship of former Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik in 2013, the Clean Air Package includes proposals to tackle emissions at source and for Member States to meet stricter pollution limits (see airqualitynews.com story).
However, new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker signalled last month that the policy package would be reviewed by incoming Commissioners, prompting fears that the proposals could be scrapped altogether (see airqualitynews.com story).
Now, it is understood that President Juncker and First Vice President Frans Timmermans are meeting today (December 11) with chairmen of the political groups in the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss the Commission’s work schedule for 2015, which is expected to be officially announced next week.
And, sources in Brussels have indicated to airqualitynews.com that President Juncker and VP Timmermans may not include the Clean Air Package from the Commission’s 2015 work schedule, prompting UK politicians and campaigners to voice support for the proposals.
Rumours of a possible scrappage of the proposals yesterday led to the Labour Party’s environment spokesperson in Europe and MEP for London, Seb Dance, to comment that he was “extremely disappointed to hear renewed rumours that the Commission intends to drop both the air quality package and the circular economy packageâ€?.
Mr Dance, who is also shadow rapporteur for the National Emissions Ceiling (NEC) Directive, added: “Air pollution is a massive problem across Europe not least in my constituency of London. Only this week a report put deaths related to air quality at 29,000 in the UK per year – and the government continues to miss the existing EU targets.
“The EU has always led the way on reducing emissions and now is not the time to stray from that. The Labour Party will use every means at our disposal to represent the importance of these packages to President Junker.â€?
Paul Brennan, Labour MEP for North East England, echoed Mr Dance’s comments, describing the Clean Air Package as “essential for healthy livesâ€?.
Thus, Mr Brennan said, scrapping the proposals would be “Very disappointing if true, especially when lead MEPs are all at Lima [for the global climate change conference]â€?.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MEP for South East England, Catherine Bearder, said yesterday that the EU “must strengthen air quality targets, not weaken them, so that we can tackle the sources of pollution both at home and abroadâ€?.
She added: “Many of the pollutants that end up in the air we breathe originate from the continent. We need stricter, clearer EU limits in order for all European governments to take coordinated action and clean up Europe’s air.â€?
It is also understood that Green Party MEP for South East England, Keith Taylor – who has been an advocate of the Clean Air package – is considering launching a petition urging the Commission to put the air quality legislation on the agenda for 2015.
In addition, campaign group ClientEarth – which took the UK government to court over its failure to meet EU nitrogen dioxide limits – said that dropping the Clean Air Package “would be a devastating moveâ€?.
It was estimated when the Clean Air package was first announced that the proposals would save 58,000 premature deaths each year in Europe with a cost benefit of around 40-140 billion euros each year after 2030.
Simon Birkett, founder and director of campaign group Clean Air in London (CAL), told airqualitynews.com this morning (December 11) that scrapping the proposals would be “catastrophic for everyone everywhereâ€?; adding that doing so “would sentence more than 50,000 people to early deathâ€?.
Mr Birkett also voiced concern that no UK government ministers had signed a letter sent last week (December 1) urging the Commission to maintain the Clean Air and Circular Economy packages on the 2015 agenda, despite the letter being signed by a number of environment and energy ministers from the likes of France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy and Sweden.
However, he said that following the Environmental Audit Committee’s high profile air quality report this week (see airqualitynews.com story) the media was now regularly following air quality as a new item, which could help increase UK public support for maintaining the Clean Air Package.
Mr Birkett said: “Every time another report is published the public’s understanding of the issue cranks up a notch.â€?