European Parliament vote to align with WHO’s air quality standards

The European Parliament yesterday voted on a revised law to improve air quality in the EU in order to achieve a clean and healthy environment for European citizens.

363 MEPs voted in favour, 226 against and 46 abstained on the vote which sets a stricter 2035 limit and target values for several pollutants including particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), SO2 (sulphur dioxide) and O3 (ozone).

Javi Lopez, rapporteur of the report

This finally brings EU standards into line with those recommended by the World Health Organisation, albeit that they voted to delay alignment until 2035 – five years later than what their Environment Committee had  recommended.

The new rules focus on improved air quality sampling, calling for at least one monitoring supersite per two million inhabitants in urban areas and one per one million inhabitants in locations where high ultrafine particles (UFP), black carbon, mercury and ammonia (NH3) concentrations are likely to occur.

MEPs also want to harmonise what they refer to as ‘currently-fragmented and unintuitive’ air quality indices across the EU. They call for information to be comparable, clear and publicly available, with hourly updates so citizens can protect themselves during high levels of air pollution. Citizens should also have greater rights to compensation when the new rules are infringed.

After the vote, rapporteur Javi López said: ‘Addressing air pollution in Europe demands immediate action. This slow-motion pandemic is taking a devastating toll on our society, leading to premature deaths and a multitude of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. We must follow the science, align our air quality standards with WHO guidelines and boost some of the provisions in this directive. We need to be ambitious to safeguard the well-being of our citizens and create a cleaner and healthier environment.’

ClientEarth lawyer Emma Bud expressed some frustration at the target date: ‘Today’s vote brings people in the EU one step closer to securing their right to breathe healthy air. Setting stricter legal limits in line with the WHO’s recommendations is paramount to protect people from dangerous levels of air pollution. But MEPs’ decision to push back the deadline means people will have to wait until 2035 – over a decade from now – to benefit from this.’

Agata de Ru, Head of Clean Air Fund’s Europe programme added: ‘The European Parliament’s position sends a strong signal for Europe to act now on air pollution. The Ambient Air Quality Directive is not only critical for the health and well-being of European citizens, but also a key reference globally, serving as inspiration for other countries around the world to follow suit.’

Photographer: Mathieu CUGNOT
Copyright: © European Union 2023 – Source : EP


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