Lobbyists call for cleaner air today, not tomorrow
Europe needs to set its sights higher when it comes to tackling air pollution - that was the message of lobby group the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) this week.Speaking at the Green Week 2005 conference in Brussels EEB's air pollution oficer Kerstin Meyer said: "The Commission must become more ambitious when it comes to air pollution."
She acknowledged the European Commission is preparing long term plans to reduce harmful emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia and fine particles but called for more to be done, and faster.
Her colleague Stefan Scheuer, policy director for EEB, said: "The aim of EU air pollution policy is to protect all people and ecosystems against air pollution.
"Europe's efforts to reduce air pollution have basically been on the right path but there is no time to become reluctant.
"Right now air pollution in the EU kills about 370,000 people every year and is threatening biodiversity in more than 60% of European ecosystems.
"We expect the Commission to address this challenge."
The EC is expected to set new targets for controlling air pollution by 2020 in its Thematic Strategy, due to be published at the end of June.
The targets cover a number of key pollutants but the EEB has criticised them for being unambitious and missing an important opportunity.
Its criticism is that costs of implementing controls have been exaggerated while the real potential for emissions reduction has been underestimated.
The lobby group argues that the document concentrates on cleaning up technology already in use when it should be looking at a more radical approach of switching from coal to gas fired power stations, looking at energy efficiency and relying more heavily on renewables.
It claims this is equally feasible and potentially cheaper to realise.
Speaking after the panel discussion Clear Skies Behind the Clouds on Wednesday, June 1 which saw participants from all over the world discussed air pollution and climate change in Europe, the United States and in Asia, Ms Meyer said: "Today's meeting centres on the many links between air pollution and climate change.
"However, in its own analysis for the air pollution strategy the Commission did not make these links."
She said much stricter targets could be easily met and should be investigated as soon as possible.
"The facts about air pollution are well known," she said.
"It is now time for the Commission to prove that it is serious about protecting people's health and the environment".
By Sam Bond