Debate with MEPs on the reduction of pollutant emissions

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Europe may lose the opportunity to give response to the serious problem of pollution if there are not modifications of the final text that will be voted on at the end of this month. The lack of ambitious objectives each five years and the called "flexibilities", are some of the main weaknesses for the breach of their objectives that the standard sets for the year 2030.

Europe health is at stake at the end of this month, when it is expected that the plenary of the European Parliament approves the national emission ceilings Directive (NEC). The new law will replace the former directive 2001/81/EC that the Spanish State is breaching from 2010, and will regulate five contaminants (SO2, NOx, NMVOCs, NH3, PM 2.5).

Each year, more than 400,000 Europeans die prematurely due to the atmospheric pollution. Poor air quality also causes several types of cancer, heart attacks, asthma, allergies and neurological diseases, especially in the cities. The European Commission estimates that the costs of air pollution related to the health in the EU go from 390 to 940 million euros annually.

For the Plataforma per la Qualitat de l’Aire [1] and for Ecologistas en Acción, the level of ambition of the new directive does not match with the real scale of the problem of the air quality in Europe and the benefits that are at stake.

The main highlighted problems from the final text agreed by the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament are:

  • Initial objective of reducing a 52% of premature deaths in 2030 is decreased in the final text to a 49.6% compared to 2005 levels. The limits proposed in terms of air quality are also very far from the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Lack of ambition in emissions reduction targets for 2020 and not set binding targets to the year 2025.
  • The adoption of the so-called "flexibilities", using concepts such as "disproportionate costs" among others, will make in the practice that the national emissions targets established by the new directive will not be met.
  • The maritime transport and aviation are not included, they don’t take part of the national inventory of emissions.
  • Exemption of methane, one of the main greenhouse gases that was referred to in the initial text.

Europe recognizes the problem and the scope of the challenge, but according to the Plataforma and Ecologistas en Acción, the agreed text has been downgraded from the one proposed initially and will not solve the problems of air pollution of the European Union. The member states will continue overcoming risky levels, unacceptable for human health and the environment, which will aggravate further climate change with dramatic consequences for the world’s population.

That’s why the Plataforma and Ecologistas en Acción have participated today in the event organized by the Office of the European Parlament in Barcelona, to demand to the MEPs that the new Directive: establishes ambitious objectives binding each five years, the inclusion of the methane, a mechanism that would legally force to member states to include objectives of compliance by areas, the inclusion of the maritime transport and aviation, and minimize the use of flexibilities in the text.