Plans for more ambitious national caps on emissions of key pollutants by 2030 were informally agreed by MEPs and the Dutch presidency of the European Council on Thursday (30 June).
Air pollution causes about 400,000 premature deaths in the EU per year, according to the European Commission. The agreement now needs to be endorsed by the Environment Committee and the European Parliament as a whole, and will be put to a vote in the Environment Committee on 12 July.
The proposal sets out the national emission reduction commitments for the main pollutantsâ€”sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), ammonia (NH3), and fine particulates.
Annex II aims for emission reductions resulting in a 49.6% health improvement, a compromise between the European Parliamentâ€™s starting position of 52% and the Council of the EUâ€™s 48%.
As advocated by MEPs, the agreement includes wording reiterating the EU commitment to identifying and responding to source control legislation that is failing to work, such as the discrepancy between real world emissions and NOx test emissions from EURO 6 diesel cars.
Member states insisted that methane be excluded from the scope of the directive. However, the Commission confirmed that it could trigger a review on this point.
Lead MEP Julie GirlingÂ (ECR, UK), said: “The evidence on poor air quality is clear – air pollution doesnâ€™t stop at member state borders.â€
â€œI am very pleased to have struck an agreement during the Dutch presidency to reduce health impacts by about 50% by 2030. Ensuring member states are on track to reach their targets is key and I am confident this first reading agreement will contribute to better air quality for citizens across the EU.”
Environment Committee chairman Giovanni La Via (EPP, IT), said: â€œI thank the Dutch presidency and Parliamentâ€™s negotiating team for their efforts in bridging positions which were initially very far apart.â€
â€œWe are all aware that atmospheric pollutants cause the premature deaths of more than 400,000 people every year in the EU. That is why we, in the Parliament, decided that our level of ambition on NEC should be as high as possible in order to save lives, but we also believe that these measures should remain cost-effective and realistic, and be based on robust scientific evidence.â€