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European Parliament Agrees Tougher Air Pollution Limits

July 16, 2015
Environmental Protection

MEPs have approved plans for a revised legislative package on air quality to include stricter national limits for ammonia, methane, nitrogen oxides, particulates, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds. The new National Emission Ceiling (NEC) directive will also include a cap on emissions of mercury from 2020.

smogThe move has been made with the aim of cutting emissions across the EU by 70% and saving an estimated €40 billion in air pollution costs by 2030.

Poor air quality is responsible for around 400,000 premature deaths in Europe every year, with an estimated 40 million people exposed to particulate levels above current guidelines.

Rapporteur and report author Julie Girling said, “The new NEC directive is the opportunity to tackle this important health issue by putting in place the benchmarks for Member States to work towards. We cannot underestimate the benefits that would result from cleaning up the air we breathe.”

To ensure progress towards the new targets, the environment committee has also suggested a series of mid-point targets, measurable in 2025. These would be fully binding on all pollutants with the exception of methane. The vote on the new proposals was accepted by 38 votes to 28 despite opposition to the inclusion of ammonia and methane in the targets from the agricultural sector and a number of national governments including the UK and France. The report will now be put to a plenary vote in Strasbourg in October.