EU officials are still waiting to receive crucial air pollution reduction plans from fourteen EU governments, including France, Germany, Poland and Spain.
National governments were supposed to detail how they planned to reduce emissions of harmful air pollution in ‘National Air Pollution Control Programmes’, which should have been sent to the European Commission this month.
However, only 14 of the EU’s 28 member states had filed plans by the end of April, with all but four missing the 1 April deadline.
Commenting on the news, Margherita Tolotto, a clean air policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said:
“It is shocking that more than half of EU governments have failed to meet a deadline for something this important. Every day of delay in cutting air pollution means more people suffering the consequences for their health,” she added:
“With just weeks to go until the European elections we are reminded why EU oversight is so important. Even on an issue as important as air pollution – where there is broad public support for action – national governments are failing to deliver.”
Governments were required to consult with the public about the contents of their plans. Citizens and environmental groups across Europe should have had the opportunity to provide their opinions through public consultations.
An EEB report published last week highlighted some of the problems undermining effective public participation in environmental decision making in the EU.
Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain have all failed to submit their plans.
France and Germany were part of a ‘toxic bloc’ of EU member states sent to the European Court of Justice last year for their failure to cut emissions quickly enough to come into line with the EU air quality standards. The court already ruled against Bulgaria and Poland in earlier cases.
Air pollution is linked to various respiratory health problems including asthma and bronchitis and increased concentrations of toxic pollutants has been linked to increased mortality and morbidity. The European Environment Agency (EEA) links air pollution to 400,000 premature deaths every year.
According to the EEA’s most recent verified data, 19 countries are still breaching nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits, which are set on an annual basis, and 14 are breaching annual permitted daily exceedances for particulate matter (PM10). The Commission’s infringement proceedings have focused on some of the worst offenders.
While urban air quality breaches are often linked to dirty diesel cars, big coal-fired power stations and intensive agriculture pump baseload pollution into the air across Europe. In Eastern Europe, where people’s home are also often heated by coal or other dirty fuels, serious investments are required to improve heating systems and insulate homes.
The missing air pollution programmes are a requirement of the EU’s National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive, which sets reduction targets for harmful pollution per country. They should have detailed the measures governments will use to cut emissions from areas like transport, industry and agriculture.
Together with DUH, FNE and the Lace Constance Foundation, the EEB has launched the ‘Clean Air Farming‘ project to help farmers reduce their impact on the environment.