EC’s plans for ground-level ozone limits receive backing from EP Environment Committee

The European Parliament Environment Committee has come out in favour of the EC's controversial plans to introduce limits on ground-level ozone that go beyond a UN-brokered deal covering the same pollutants.

The plan to create national emission ceilings (NECs) for pollutants contributing to ground-level ozone has been resisted by Environment Ministers of EU member states, who argue that the limits proposed are too strict.

But at its meeting on 22 February, members of the EP Environment Committee supported the EC and went further by inserting wording to make the long-term objectives of the directive less vague. The EC had proposed that the long-term objective – set at 120µg/m3 for human health and 6,000 µg/m3.h for vegetation – should be obtained “within a foreseeable time period”. The Environment Committee has specified 2020 as the deadline.

The Committee made no changes to the proposed short-term ‘target values for ozone’, which would have to be met by 2010. These state that ground-level ozone should not exceed120µg/m3 (the target level for the protection of human health) more than 20 days per annum and 17,000 µg/m3.h for the protection of vegetation.

Among the Environment Committee’s other amendments are several instructions to member states and the EC relating to regular publication of ground-level ozone levels, information comparing member states’ action plans and other public awareness raising efforts.

The Committee also argues that the proposed NECs – for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia – will be easier to meet than EU environment ministers have admitted because member states’ climate change mitigation efforts will, in many cases, be working toward reductions of these very same emissions.

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