Environment ministers agree to fight ground-level ozone

EU environmental ministers approved proposals by the European Commission to limit ozone levels in the ambient air.

EU environmental ministers approved proposals by the European Commission to limit ozone levels in the ambient air. The proposal (a daughter directive of the EU's 1996 air quality framework directive) limits the amount of ground-level ozone to 120 micrograms per cubic metre. The aim is to achieve these limits by 2010. Under the Council's common position, member states would be allowed to exceed these limits 25 times a year (the Commission had proposed 20 days).

The Council's common position will probably lead to conciliation talks with the European Parliament, which wants more binding targets.

UNICE, the EU Employers federation, is concerned about the negative impact of the Directive on the competitiveness of EU business. It has called for a staged approach and a more realistic timescale. UNICE also proposes an interim target of 160 micrograms per cubic metre.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), in a first reaction to the Council's common position, regrets the watering down of the Commission's proposal and urges the European Parliament to reconfirm its first reading by voting for 20 days exceedances, by giving the long term target an attainment date of 2020 and by making the 2010 interim target (of 20 days) binding.

Ground-level ozone, or summer smog, has adverse effects on human health, ecosystems and vegetation.

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