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Commission sets tougher targets on air quality

Submitted by on 01 Feb 2018 – 15:44

Brussels gets tough on EU countries that aren’t going the extra mle to combat air pollution. Nine member states,  namely the Czech Republic,  Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom, face infringement procedures for exceeding agreed air pollution limits. More countries may be taken to the European Court of Justice, and eventually face fines, for breaching EU legal limits. EU national governments are also facing increasing pressure resulting from lawsuits filed by citizens and NGOs.

Towards the end of 2017, several European cities announced bans on petrol and diesel cars in a move to create a zero-emissions zone by 2035. While Paris decided to ban all petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles by 2030, Copenhagen announced plans to launch a ban from 2019,  Oxford from 2020 and the United Kingdom from 2040.

Despite these positive trends, air pollution remains the main cause of premature death in the European Union. Air pollution causes more than 400,000 premature deaths every year and it brings respiratory and cardiovascular diseases to millions more.

In light of urgency, European Commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella noted that “national governments are not doing enough, but the European Commission is not reacting fast enough either.” Though the recently set standards in the National Emissions Ceiling Directive will reportedly halve the negative health impacts by 2030, he highlighted the importance of a “concerted approach” among individual member states to speeden the process.

The European Commission has been trying its best to foster cooperation between different levels of government through its Clean Air Dialogue, where it brings officials together to discuss possible measures.

Whilst “failing to meet air quality standards is no more an option,” Vella emphasised the need for increased coordination between national policies, taxation and local decision to promote clean air.