UK among EU nations ‘watering down’ air quality proposals

EEB blasts some Member States for reluctance in adopting NEC Directive at Luxembourg meeting

The European Environmental Bureau has criticised the UK for its support of ‘watered down’ EU-wide air pollution limits, discussed in negotiations ‘away from the cameras’ in Luxembourg yesterday (20 June).

The EEB — a federation of over 140 environmental citizens’ organisations from across Europe — singled out the UK represented by Defra minister Rory Stewart at a meeting of the EU Environment Council.

Defra minister Rory Stewart (pictured) is representing the UK in the discussions

Defra minister Rory Stewart (pictured) is representing the UK in the discussions

Other Member States that also came under fire from the EEB are France, Poland, Italy and Romania.


Environment ministers congregated at the Council meeting today in order to discuss ongoing negotiations with the European Parliament to agree the national emissions ceiling (NEC) Directive. Other issues on the agenda included a proposal to reform the EU emissions trading and discussions on NOx emissions from diesel cars.

The NEC Directive sets a cap on the amount of pollution EU countries can emit, including fine particulate matter, NOx, sulphur dioxide, ammonia, volatile organic compounds and methane.

The European Parliament has proposed introducing legally binding limits for 2025, as well as a ‘52% health improvement’ by 2030 in relation to air pollution.


However, the EEB argues that the Environment Council is attempting to ‘water down’ the proposals, by vetoing the mandatory limits by 2025 and reducing the health improvement target to 48%.

The EEB says that according to Commission estimates, this would result in 16,000 premature deaths per year.

Louise Duprez, senior policy officer for air quality at the EEB, said: “It is breathtaking that environment ministers are happy to back measures that will allow several thousands of extra people to die every year in the EU instead of fighting for a deal that will better protect people and nature from air pollution.”

However, the EEB has welcomed ‘interventions’ in today’s debate by countries including the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden and Belgium, which emphasised ‘the need to protect human health and health’.


Representing the UK, Mr Stewart made the trip to today’s Luxembourg negotiations with parliamentary undersecretary of state for climate change, Lord Bourne.

At a meeting of the Environmental Industries Commission last year, Mr Stewart said he expected that UK cities would have “some of the cleanest air in Britain” in coming years. However, the minister has more recently come under fire over the UK’s failure to meet EU-set air quality targets (see story).


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