EU Commission clarifies Clean Air Package plans

The European Commission will bring forward modified proposal in course of ongoing negotiations over air quality legislation

The European Commission has clarified its plans for the proposed Clean Air legislation package this year, stating that it intends to bring forward a modified proposal “in the course of ongoing negotiations”.

Differences between the European Parliament and the Council regarding proposals for the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive have again been highlighted by the Commission as reasons for seeking modifications to the current policy package, but the Commission insisted that it is not withdrawing the NEC proposals from this year’s agenda altogether.

The European Commission intends to put forward modifications to the NEC Directive proposals this year

The European Commission intends to put forward modifications to the NEC Directive proposals this year

It follows air quality rapporteur and Conservative MEP Julie Girling’s announcement last week that she had received assurances from Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans that the legislative process for the Clean Air Package would “continue as planned” (see story).

Nevertheless, uncertainty has surrounded the policy package since Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s administration unexpectedly suggested in December that it would be dropped from this year’s workplan in its current form (see story).

The Clean Air Package developed under previous Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik focuses on tackling air pollution at source and includes proposals for Member States to meet stricter limits in the NEC Directive for six pollutants by 2020 and 2030 (see story).

The NECD currently places limits on four pollutants — sulphur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), ammonia (NH3) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The proposed revision in the new package adds particulate matter (PM2.5) and methane (CH4) to this list.

Confirming its “strong commitment to the objectives of the Clean Air Package” yesterday (January 20), a spokeswoman for the European Commission told that it had “made it clear” that it would not be withdrawing the National Emissions Ceilings proposals but will seek to modify it in the course of existing negotiations”.

The Commission spokeswoman said: “As VP Timmermans stated in his presentation of the Work Programme to the Parliament, the proposal on national emissions ceilings has proved more controversial and there is a gap emerging between what Parliament and Council might view as an acceptable outcome. The Commission will bring forward, in the course of the ongoing negotiations, a modified proposal hoping it can help bridge this gap by better reflecting synergies with the energy and climate package and reducing administrative burden.

“The Commission is optimistic that the negotiations will be a success and agreement can be reached. The goals remain the same, but the Commission is looking at the best approach to achieve results.”

A majority of MEPs last week also opposed withdrawing the legislation package in Strasbourg, although no formal response to the Commission’s 2015 legislative agenda was agreed (see story).


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