European Parliament Environment Committee votes to cap pollution

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has voted in favour of amendments that will increase the level of ambition for future directives that set national pollution ceilings for four major air pollutants.

MEP’s recognised the need to tighten emission limits for sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) of both new and existing plants burning coal and oil. According to the federation of environmental groups, the European Environment Bureau (EEB), whilst the current position has made some progress on curbing SO2 emissions from existing plants, it will do very little to reduce NOx emissions which form ozone and secondary particulate matter.

The Committee also voted to remove unnecessary exemptions for cases such as indigenous solid fuels.

However, there are still serious shortcomings regarding policy towards the operation of large combustion plants, according to the EEB, including exemptions for offshore gas turbines, high sulphur dirty fuels and small plants written into the directives for Crete and Rhodes.

“The economic benefits of reducing air pollution, for health and agriculture, are shown to be several-fold greater than the costs of reducing it,” said Sarah Keay-Bright, clean air campaigner at the European Environment Bureau. “Reducing pollution by burning less fossil fuel, not only saves lives, crops and therefore money, but it can also prevent climate change too. So today’s result is a clear signal from Parliamentarians that they want their Member State governments to take seriously both their Kyoto Protocol commitments and the EU’s long term objectives to put an end to damage by acidification, eutrophication and ozone.”

“We’re now expecting the rest of parliament to vote in support of the environment committee’s recommendation and for Council to move away from the status quo, in line with Parliament’s position.”

The Committee also discussed cutting emissions from vehicles.

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