Agreement finally reached on ozone controls

The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have negotiated an agreement over a proposed new law for reducing ground-level ozone.

The proposed law which will be formally approved in under three weeks, commits to reducing smog levels to UN recommended levels and providing better information to the public about problems of air pollution locally, and has already received all party backing in Parliament (see related story). Conciliation has dragged on for more than 18 months as the Council resisted Parliament’s demands that member states must achieve binding targets by 2010, as well as insisting on the specific deadline of 2020 for achieving the long-term objectives, when the directive would be reviewed by the Commission.

A number of other demands made by Parliament have also now been taken on board by the Council, including provisions ensuring that sensitive population groups are protected from exposure, requiring member states to draw up measures for zones where there is a risk of the alert threshold being exceeded, allowing the comparison of national performances and saying EU members must provide information on the impact of overshooting target values.

Parliament and Council agreed in talks following Parliament’s second reading that the target for human health for 2010 is to avoid exceeding 120 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3), the maximum level set by the World Health Organisation, on more than 25 days per year. Under the new agreement, the targets and long-term objectives are to be met “save where not achievable through proportionate measures”.

The deal, which was approved by Parliament’s delegation to the conciliation committee by 12 votes to one, was described by rapporteur Chris Davies, a British Liberal Democrat as “a good compromise” and “real progress on the position of two years ago”, when work on the directive began. It also requires the member states to prove, if they fail to achieve the targets, that they were unable to meet them.

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