Air pollution: European agreement on new targets

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It was only a short time before the new European directive on air quality was put back on the job. After ten days of final negotiations, the Commission, the Parliament and the Council finally agreed on a text on 30 June.

This draft legislation concerns the revision of the 1999 Directive, which sets national emission ceilings for the main pollutants generated by industry, transport, energy and agriculture. Presented in December 2013 by the Barroso Commission, this text provides for stricter emission thresholds with targets to be met by 2020 and 2030. It also extends the list of pollutants concerned to PM 2.5 ( with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns), emitted in particular by diesel engines, and particularly dangerous for health.
Initially, methane had to be added to the list of pollutants giving rise to emission ceilings. But governments have obtained the removal of this pollutant and greenhouse gas from the directive, which is as harmful as CO2.

Avoiding more than 48,000 premature deaths

smoking exhaust (MaxPPP TagID: dpacreative148308.jpg) [Photo via MaxPPP]

However, Parliament and the Commission have not given too much attention to the general level of ambition of the Directive. In order to limit the efforts required of farmers, Member States proposed national ceilings that reduced the health impact of air pollution by 48% by 2030. But Brussels wanted to reach 52%. The three parties finally agreed on a level of ambition at 49.6%. This should make it possible to avoid 48,300 premature deaths in 2030, which is almost 10,000 fewer than the Commission and Parliament wanted.

The most intense discussions took place on the goal of reducing ammonia emissions from agricultural practices. In particular, France, to which the European Union was asking to reduce its ammonia inputs by 23%, conceded only 13% reduction by 2030. France is not the only one to have sought to limit the efforts of its agriculture. Germany, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Great Britain, among others, have been able to reduce their ammonia emission reduction target by 8 to 21 points.

The emission thresholds for PM 2.5, which are particularly harmful to health, have also been greatly enhanced. In particular, Bulgaria reduced its target of reducing these fine particles by 25 points, Greece by 21, Italy by 14 and Spain by 12 points.

Vote of Parliament in the Fall

Governments have also focused on limiting coercion to the maximum. The objectives may thus be flexible, that is to say adjustable in the event of unforeseen circumstances. For example, if the technological advances made on particle filters in cars did not achieve the desired performance, States could escape the infringement procedure of the Commission.

Governments will therefore be able to compensate for an insufficient reduction of a pollutant by reducing emissions exceeding the targets on other pollutants. Or if a year, a Member State can not meet its commitments due to “exceptional” climatic conditions, a particularly cold winter or a particularly hot summer, it will be able to average the emissions over three consecutive years (the ” current year, previous and next) to demonstrate that it is nevertheless on the right trajectory.

The revision text must now be submitted to a final vote by the European Parliament in the autumn, before its final adoption by the European Council. When transcribing the directive into its law, “France will have to redress the bar and adopt a national program of action aligned with the original objective of the European Parliament rather than the directive, massively reducing its emissions of ammonia as prescribed, “says Denez L’Hostis, president of France Nature Environment, who judges the final draft directive” disappointing. “

“This text deserves to be much more ambitious,” says Louise Duprez of the European Environmental Bureau, an influential NGO group. It nevertheless shows the importance of having a European impulse. Without the Commission and the European Parliament, this future directive would be much weaker, if not non-existent. “

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