60 organisations demand stricter EU air legislation

A paper drafted in response to the EU’s consultation on its air quality policy and backed by 60 European NGOs and campaign groups has called for stricter legislation at European level

Sixty organisations across Europe have called for stricter air quality limits and legislation in a paper addressed to the European Union on Monday (March 4).

The position paper calls for the strengthening of air quality limits to similar levels recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as the current limits are “inadequate to protect our health”. It also calls for infringement action on these limits taken out by the EU against member states to be more quickly enforced.

Map showing annual mean concentrations of PM2.5 in Europe in 2010 (red dots signify the highest levels of pollution)

Map showing annual mean concentrations of PM2.5 in Europe in 2010 (red dots signify the highest levels of pollution)

Other demands set out in the paper, ‘NGO priorities for the review of the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution’, include stricter sector-specific legislation to reduce emissions at source and more ambitious European emission reduction commitments for 2020, 2025 and 2030.

Headed by the European Environment Bureau (EEB), various NGOs and campaign groups from across Europe put their names to the paper, which was sent in response to the European Commission’s consultation on its air pollution laws and policy.

Groups from the UK supporting the EEB paper include Friends of the Earth, Environmental Protection UK and Clean Air in London.

The paper outlines desired action on the EU’s Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution (TSAP), which is made up of three areas of legislation: the Ambient Air Quality Directives, which limit values for particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants; the National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive, which places limits on emissions impacting the ozone; and regulations regarding sources of emissions, such as products, vehicles and industrial installations.

A comprehensive review of the TSAP is being carried out by the EU as part of its 2013 ‘Year of Air’, with a final report due sometime in September 2013.

The consultation on the review of the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution (TSAP) began on December 10 and ended on Monday (March 4), the results of which will help inform a report on EU air quality policy due in September 2013 (see story).


The paper also sets out its opposition to the introduction of any ‘flexibility’ in the application of EU air quality limit values, as it states that this could make these limits “unenforceable and therefore meaningless”.

The paper also states: “EU-wide binding limit values set to protect people’s health and the environment have proven to be a very effective tool to improve air quality and trigger local action. In fact, these limits have been the main driver for action in many places in the EU. But the current EU air quality standards are inadequate to protect our health.”

With regards to tackling emissions at source, the paper states that new standards are necessary for existing products, vehicles or construction machines, but that they should be “complemented by retrofit incentives, economic instruments, market surveillance and in-use compliance regimes.”

The paper concludes that it is “high time” for the Commission to “come forward with a legislative package with ambitious revisions, binding commitments and a comprehensive set of measures for all major sources concerned. This would benefit the EU’s citizens, its environment and national budgets.”

A summary of the TSAP 2005 can be viewed on the EU website, or by clicking here.

The paper issued as part of the TSAP consultation is available on the EEB website.


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