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08/12/2016

EU’s new air quality guidelines accused of being ‘patchy’

Climate & Environment

EU’s new air quality guidelines accused of being ‘patchy’

Cattle farming is one of the main producers of methane, the non-inclusion of which has been both criticised and applauded.

[Tim Green/Flickr]

The EU continues its efforts to reduce air pollution, but its new guidelines have been criticised for being too patchy. EurActiv Germany reports.

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has given its consent to a draft bill to amend the EU’s Air Quality Directive; it now awaits approval from the Parliament’s plenary and the Council. The core aim of the change is to reduce atmospheric pollutants and reduce the damage done to people’s health, with an improvement target of 50% set for 2030.

Additionally, non-binding targets on pollutants have been set for 2025. However, methane is not included in the legislation.

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For Jens Gieseke MEP (EPP), the deal is a great success. “Methane is already regulated by EU climate policy. Its non-inclusion in the directive is an important sign of moving away from over-regulation in European legislation,” the CDU politician insisted.

Methane is primarily produced by agriculture, in particular, cattle farming. The European Environment Agency lists agriculture as one of the main causes of air pollution, as many of the chemical agents used in crop production have a negative impact on air quality.

However, the compromise made between the Commission, Parliament and Council has not been met with universal approval. Martin Häusling, the Greens agricultural spokesperson, criticised the new guidelines for being too “patchy”. Farmers associations had long campaigned against limits on methane and ammonia, despite their harmful qualities being scientifically demonstrated.

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Häusling also criticised the German government for allowing the curbing of methane emissions to not be included in the proposed agreement.

The Global Environment Outlook report, published by the UN, concluded in June of this year that people are exposed to unhealthy air in nearly every EU city. The maximum level of pollutants is exceeded in nearly 95% of cities, when the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) criteria are used. The study also showed that air pollution in the EU accounts for more than 500,000 premature deaths every year.