Share article:
Share article:

EU not on track to reduce air pollution by 2030

Credit: Belga

While air pollution decreased temporarily during the lockdowns, most EU member states are at risk of not complying with commitments on reducing air pollution, according to a first assessment by the European Commission of the implementation of the European clean air programme.

The rules in the National Emission Reduction Commitments Directive entered into force in December 2016 and sets commitments for each member state for 2020 – 2029 and the period beyond 2030. The aim is to reduce the health impacts of air pollution by half by 2030 compared to 2005.

Member states are obliged to report every two years about their projected emissions. The first Commission assessment was published last week (26 June) and is based on the reporting that the member states were supposed to submit to the Commission by April 2019.

In fact, only 8 member states delivered their National Air Pollution Control Programmes (NAPCP) on time. A further 16 member states submitted their final NAPCPs by May 2020. The Commission initiated infringement procedures in February 2020 against three member states that had not submitted any NAPCP at the time. The reports from Greece and Romania are still missing.

With existing measures, the assessment shows that ten member states project to fulfil all 2020 emission reduction commitments, while the number falls to only four (Croatia, Cyprus, Netherlands, Finland) when it comes to the 2030 commitments. All member states not reaching their emission reduction commitments with existing measures need to put in place additional measures.

The directive targets five air pollutants responsible for significant negative impacts on human health and the environment: sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), ammonia (NH3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Credit: EU

For both “With Existing Measures” and “With Additional Measures” scenarios, non-compliance is most frequently projected for NH3 emission reduction commitments in agriculture, followed by NMVOC, NOx and PM2.5.

Links between air and climate/energy policies are multiple, as emitting sources of greenhouse gases and air pollutants are often the same. Methane, although being a pollutant in the agriculture and waste sectors both from clean air and climate perspectives, was not covered by the directive.

The Commission, however, is of the opinion that methane emissions should be kept under review with the aim to limit their contribution to ozone concentrations in the EU and to reduce methane emissions internationally.

Judging by the assessment, member states need to step up efforts across all sectors to make sure their citizens can breathe clean air.

“We need more effective measures to cut pollution in numerous member states and to tackle air emissions across sectors, including agriculture, transport and energy,” said Virginijus Sinkevicius, environment commissioner (26 June).

“There has never been a better time to make these changes: investing in cleaner air means investing in citizens’ health, in our climate, and it’s the kick-start our economy needs.”

According to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in March, air pollution decreased significantly in Europe from the very start of the lockdowns during the coronavirus crisis. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, for example, were halved in some areas, mainly due to a drastic reduction in traffic. For many, this was a call to continue keeping air pollution at a low level also after the crisis.

Poor air quality is the number one environmental cause of premature death in the EU, with over 390 000 premature deaths every year, according to the Commission. It also impacts on the quality of life, by causing or exacerbating asthma and respiratory problems, and damages ecosystems through excess nitrogen pollution and acid rain.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Brussels pharmacies report rush on rapid tests due to Covid Safe Ticket
Many pharmacists in Brussels have noticed a remarkable increase in the demand for Covid-19 tests this weekend, following the official expansion of ...
Students filmed naked on ULB campus given a warning
A group of students caught on camera mimicking sexual acts on the campus of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) have been issued an official ...
EU Digital Covid Certificate becomes an international success story
The European Commission adopted on Monday a report on the EU Digital Covid Certificate and its implementation across the EU. According to the ...
Belgian chocolatier agrees to $15 million settlement over misled consumers allegations
Internationally recognised Belgian chocolate manufacturer Godiva has reached a $15 million (€12.9 million) settlement after US consumers said they ...
‘Buying second home does not mean you are rich’: government disagrees on tax break
The Francophone liberal MR party and the Flemish socialist Vooruit party strongly disagree on the current scheme for tax benefits on people's second ...
EMA starts evaluating Pfizer vaccine for children over 5 years old
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has started evaluating an application to extend the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to children ...
Energy prices: EU’s demand and supply dilemma in importing natural gas
The European Commission adopted last week a plan on how to tackle the rise in global energy prices in the short-term while relying on the transition ...
Tram line and cycle path to connect Brussels’ outskirts to airport
Works on a tram line connecting Brussels, the NATO headquarters and Brussels Airport in Zaventem, which could attract up to 10,000 passengers a day, ...
SKYFALL: European police complete counter-drone training in Antwerp
In a joint project between Belgium’s federal police and the Brussels Capital Ixelles Policing Area, 15 European police officers visited Antwerp to ...
Offshore wind farms could help reach climate neutrality by 2050
A study carried out by the Bureau fédérale du Plan (BFP) – an independent Belgian organisation that investigates questions of environmental and ...
Will Brussels bounce back?
The lockdowns have tested the city and forced it to confront key questions about its future. Derek Blyth looks back at an extraordinary moment in our ...
STIB launches free transport for Museum Night Fever this weekend
STIB buses will run between Brussels museums for free on Saturday night as part of the Museum Night Fever celebrations taking over the capital.  ...