Europeans ‘unhappy’ with EU air quality policy

A survey published by the European Commission yesterday (January 8) reveals high levels of dissatisfaction with EU air quality policy as European citizens call for additional measures to deal with air pollution problems

Almost 80% of Europeans believe more EU measures are needed to tackle air pollution amid widespread dissatisfaction with European air quality policy, according to a survey published by the European Commission yesterday.

The survey results reveal a lack of knowledge about EU air quality policy and legislation, as well as high levels of dissatisfaction about communication and information on air quality provided by member states.

Jan Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, said Europeans had called for the EU to act on air pollution (© European Union, 2013)

Jan Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, said Europeans had called for the EU to act on air pollution (© European Union, 2013)

Also, the results suggest many Europeans are unhappy with efforts being made by public authorities to improve air quality, and more than half of those questioned who were aware of existing EU air quality standards and national emissions ceilings felt that these were inadequate.

The ‘Attitudes of Europeans towards Air Quality’ results coincided with the launch of the European Commission’s ‘Year of Air’ for 2013, and found that more than half (56%) of Europeans believe air quality has deteriorated in the last ten years, while only 16% believe it has improved. Also, 17% of respondents said they suffer from respiratory problems.

As many as 79% of respondents said they thought that the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality-related problems in Europe.

More than 25,500 European citizens aged 15 and above from all 27 member states were interviewed for the survey. It was conducted between 24 and 26 September 2012 by research consultants TNS Political and Social on behalf of the Commission.

Commenting on the survey results, European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik, said: “Citizens want us to act and we will respond by reviewing our air policy in 2013. They are asking for more measures in key sectors, and better information on policy effectiveness. To meet these challenges we need to work together at all policy levels — and follow up with action on the ground.”

Tackling air quality problems

The survey suggests Europeans are unhappy with the level of action being taken on air quality as 72% believe that public authorities are not doing enough to promote good air quality, while 64% said the same about energy producers. However, 61% also said they were unhappy with the level of effort being made by individual households in Europe to improve air pollution.

When asked about the most effective way to tackle air pollution, 43% suggested stricter emission controls on industry and energy production. Emissions from vehicles (96%), industry (92%) and international transport (86%) are considered to have the biggest influence on air pollution.

In order to tackle air pollution, 49% of respondents said these issues would be best addressed at a European level. In comparison, 23% said they should be dealt with at a national level and 24% said it was best to take local level action.

Air quality awareness

Almost six out of ten  Europeans said they do not feel informed about air quality issues in their country (59%), while nearly a quarter do not feel informed at all about air quality problems — Spain (31%), Luxembourg, Cyprus and Latvia (27% each).

Asked specifically about EU air quality standards and the National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive, nearly three quarters (74%) had not heard of either. Of the quarter that were aware of this legislation, 58% felt air quality standards were inadequate and needed strengthening and 51% said the same about the NECs.

Also, only one in ten said they were aware of the ongoing review of the EU’s Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution, about which a public consultation is currently underway (see story).

The results of the survey were announced on the same day as the launch of the Commission’s 2013 Year of Air, which took place in Brussels at a conference organised by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) — ‘Clean Air Everywhere: Blowing the winds of change into European air policy’.


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