Six things our governments (and the EU) can do to improve air quality

This week European air quality experts are meeting in Bratislava for the European Commission’s second Clean Air Forum.

While air quality in Europe is slowly improving, 90% of people living in urban areas in the EU are breathing illegal levels of air pollution, and campaigners warn national governments are doing to little, too slow.

Air pollution harms us all, but it is especially damaging for the most vulnerable in society – children and the elderly.

The Bratislava meeting is a chance for leading experts, politicians, EU officials and clean air campaigners to sit down and discuss what can be done.

Ahead of the meeting, leading clean air campaigners have issued a list of 6 “necessary steps” for cleaner air.

EU Governments

1. Meet air quality standards

Our governments need to take steps to rigorously implement and apply the EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directives to help protect people’s health and the environment.

2. Stop blocking cleaner air

Governments can adopt coherent national policies which do not make meeting air quality objectives more difficult. They can stop harmful subsidies to fossil fuels and apply the polluter-pays principle.

3. Prevent and reduce pollution

There’s a range of EU laws that can help governments to cut pollution at source – from industry, transport and other sectors. These could be better implemented. Governments can also support new laws to tackle other pollution sources, especially from sectors lagging behind like agriculture, domestic heating, and shipping.

The European Commission

4. Enforce the law

The Commission can make sure existing legislation is followed by promptly launching infringement procedures and taking Member States to the European Court of Justice when they fail to protect people’s health and the environment.

5. Improve plans and monitoring

Implementing legislation could be used to update minimum requirements for air quality plans and air quality monitoring. This could ensure consistent and accurate results across Europe.

6. Update air quality standards

The Commission needs a clear roadmap to align EU legally binding air quality limit values with the new air quality guidelines that the World Health Organisation is expected to publish soon.

Together with DUH, FNE and the Lake Constance Foundation, the EEB has launched the ‘Clean Air Farming‘ project to help reduce ammonia and methane emissions from agriculture.

The Project Clean Air Farming (LIFE17 GIE/DE/610 Air & Agriculture) is co-financed by the LIFE-Programme of the European Commission.