Brussels sets tougher EU air quality rules – POLITICO

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday to tighten EU air quality guidelines, meaning countries will have to take action to reduce exposure to key pollutants.

The proposal suggests tightening limit values ​​for a number of key air pollutants by 2030 as part of its plan to achieve “zero pollution” by mid-century.

This should trigger a pushback from capitals already failing to meet current targets and from centre-right lawmakers in the European Parliament who have called for a moratorium on new green legislation amid war in Ukraine and surging energy price.

The text, as previously reported by POLITICO, lowers annual average exposure limits to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which has been linked to respiratory disease, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), one of the main pollutants transportation.

But those limits – 10 micrograms per cubic meter for PM2.5 and 20 for NO2 – are still twice as high as the latest World Health Organization recommendations. The organization suggests limiting PM2.5 to 5 micrograms per cubic meter and NO2 to 10.

NGOs are critical of the proposal, saying the EU should aim for full alignment with WHO guidelines. A group of deputies Socialists and Democrats, Greens and the Renew Europe group also pointed to a lack of ambition, arguing that the Commission had failed to follow scientific advice in setting the new limits.

Despite recent improvements in air pollution levels across the bloc, dirty air still caused more than 300,000 premature deaths in 2019, according to the European Environment Agency.

Green groups also pointed out that the proposal lacked enforcement strength and urged the Commission to strengthen mechanisms to ensure countries adhere to the new rules.

“Air quality standards are an empty promise if there are no financial penalties in place to hold governments accountable if they breach them,” said Ugo Taddei, clean air manager at the legal charity ClientEarth.

NGOs applauded one aspect of the proposal: it introduces provisions guaranteeing citizens access to justice in the event of exceeding the limits and being able to obtain compensation for the damage to health caused by the violation of the pollution limits.

The Commission’s proposal will now be discussed by member countries and the European Parliament.


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