MEPs vote to cut air pollution emissions

The European Parliament has voted to reduce pollution emission levels below those suggested by both the European Commission and the European Council.

The proposed levels, which are for sulphur dioxide (3491 kilotonnes), oxides of nitrogen (5905 kilotonnes), volatile organic compounds (5581 kilotonnes) and ammonia (3110 kilotonnes), are amendments to the common position on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants, part of the European Union’s fifth Environmental Action Programme. MEPs also included an amendment proposing to abolish exemptions for maritime traffic and aircraft emissions desired by the Council.

“With this vote, MEPs will force the Council to take clean air policy more seriously,” said Christian Hey of the European Environment Bureau (EEB). “The Council now needs to re-examine by how much it is willing to reduce pollution.”

“Whilst not perfect, the [European Parliament] limits are a necessary first step to tackle the serious regional pollution problems Europe faces,” said Frazer Goodwin of the European Federation for Transport and the Environment. “The addition by the [European Parliament] of long term targets also improves the Directive beyond the compromise proposed by Ministers. This compromise was motivated more by national interests than a desire to protect human and environmental health across Europe.”

Alongside the vote, Parliament also approved a revision of the Large Combustion Plant Directive, limiting emissions from the largest sources such as power plants. The directive will apply to new large combustion plants (over 50MW), licensed after the directive takes effect, and to existing ones from 2008 onwards. Parliament is particularly concerned with emissions from large combustion plants because their effects do not stop at national borders.

MEPs voted for sulphur dioxide emissions to be limited to 300mg/Nm3 for plants of 300 MW and above, with a limit of 1700mg/Nm3 for liquid fuel plants sized 50-300MW. MEP’s also voted for tougher limits on oxides of nitrogen.

“By also strengthening the Large Combustion Plant Directive with a tightening of the limits from new and existing plants, the [European Parliament] has made the national emission ceilings easier to achieve,” said Christer Ågren of the Swedish NGO secretariat on acid rain. “These ceilings are not difficult to reach either technically or economically, particularly for governments which will be reducing pollution to achieve their Kyoto commitments anyway.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie