The 2008 Air Quality Directive is aimed at streamlining and tightening EU legislation dealing with pollution and air standards.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are all targeted under the directive, which also obliges member states must cut exposure to fine particulate matter (particles measuring less than 2.5 microns across) by an average of 20% by 2020, based on 2010 levels.
But after extensive lobbying from the agricultural sector, no limits were placed on methane emissions. The European Commission has said that this may change as part of the broader review of the directive currently under way.
400,000 European citizens die from the effects of air pollution every year. But if it is respected, the proposed amendment to the directive should cut this figure by 49.6% by 2030, a compromise between the positions of the Parliament (52%) and the Council (48%).
A flexible deal
The compromise gives member states flexibility in a number of ways. Fluctuations in pollution levels will be tolerated, and states are not obliged to report consistently falling pollution figures. Exceptional climatic conditions may also be taken into account, and annual emissions may be carried over and reported as an average with those from the following year.
But France Nature Environnement sees the Parliament’s compromise as an unacceptable trade-off of 10,000 lives every year. For the NGO, it is “disappointing that industry and conventional agriculture benefit to the detriment of the health of European citizens”.
The proposal will be put to a vote in the Parliament’s Environment Committee next Tuesday (12 July).