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UK MEPs urge strict national EU air quality limits

MEPs and EU local government representatives urge stronger air pollution limits in NEC Directive proposals

Calls for a ‘more ambitious’ National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive with stricter air pollution limits were made at a meeting of MEPs and representatives of major European cities in Brussels yesterday (January 28).

Proposals for new EU air quality legislation were at risk of being dropped in December 2014, but the European Commission has now said it will bring forward “modified proposals in the course of ongoing negotiations” over the Clean Air Package (see airqualitynews.com story).

A panel of MEPs debate plans for the EU air quality package at the Eurocities event in Brussels

A panel of MEPs debate plans for the EU air quality package at the Eurocities event in Brussels

The Clean Air Package developed under previous Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik focuses on tackling air pollution at source and includes proposals for Member States to meet stricter limits in the NEC Directive for six pollutants by 2020 and 2030 (see airqualitynews.com story).

But, according to the Commission, tighter limits proposed for the NEC Directive in the package “proved controversial” with a gap between what the EU Parliament and Council “might view as an acceptable outcome”.

However, a panel of MEPs – including Seb Dance, Catherine Bearder and Julie Girling from the UK – at an air quality debate hosted in Brussels yesterday spoke out in favour of strong national air quality limits in the NEC Directive, rather than weakening the proposals.

Rapporteur for the NEC Directive and Conservative MEP for South West England, Julie Girling, said: “An effective air package with a robust NEC Directive will help local and regional authorities clean up the air. Now that the Commission’s proposal is staying on the table, Parliament can push for the solid directive we need.”

Labour MEP Seb Dance speaking during the Eurocities MEP panel yesterday (January 28)

Labour MEP Seb Dance speaking during the Eurocities MEP panel yesterday (January 28)

And, also speaking at the event, Lib Dem MEP for South East England, Catherine Bearder commented: “There is a public hunger out there for cleaner air, now it’s up to MEPs to deliver the right legislation. As well as strict national limits, it’s vital that we ensure local authorities have the right tools and resources to tackle air pollution effectively.”

Event organiser Eurocities – which represents local governments of more than 130 European cities and 40 partner cities – called for a more ambitious maximum limits for air pollutants in the NEC Directive which it said would “make better regulatory sense” and also “reduce inconsistencies in EU air policy”.

According to Eurocities, many cities fail to meet EU standards for air quality due to “sources beyond their control”, but a stronger NEC Directive would “push member states to address factors such as long distance transport of goods and people as well as power generation, so national efforts can help support local measures for cleaner air”.

Speaking at the event, chair of Eurocities’ Environment Forum, Lot Van Hooijdonk, also sought to remind the European Commission that Euro emissions standards for cars, trucks and buses “have a crucial role to play for cleaner air”.

Ms Van Hooijdonk, who is deputy mayor of Utrecht for transport, energy and environment, said: “It’s high time that member states step up their air quality measures to support local actions. A stronger directive on national emissions ceilings is essential to make it happen, with stricter, binding targets in 2025 already.”

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