Europe contemplates air quality standards

Tighter air quality standards could limit the emission of harmful particulate matter from cars, planes and factories across Europe under a newly revised version of the EU ambient air quality directive.

The Environment Council voted to tighten the pollution limits included in the Directive on Monday, and in doing so set the stage for a confrontation with the European Parliament which had voted to weaken the same limits in August.

The Council’s revision sets binding limits on PM2.5 concentrations, fine dust particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which cause respiratory disease and have so far remained outside of the scope of legislation. Only the slightly bigger PM10 particles are covered by current regulations.

Pollution with PM2.5 particulate matter is responsible for 350,000 premature deaths in Europe every year – most of the 370,000 deaths from air pollution-linked disease every year, according to the Council.

Environment commissioner Stavrows Dimas said: “We have to reduce these shocking figures, and for that we need an ambitious directive. That is what the Commission has proposed, and I am glad to say that the Council’s position fully endorses both our approach and our level of ambition.

“The Council has acted responsibly in not weakening the existing standards themselves and in strictly limiting any time extensions for achieving them to no more than 3 years. That is the right balance, and I hope the European Parliament will come round to this view when it gives the directive its second reading,” he said.

The directive, which allows for some flexibility to account for differences between individual states, is part of the Thematic strategy on Air Pollution.

The full text of the directive can be accessed here.

Goska Romanowicz

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