Commissioner Karmenu Vella calls air quality ministerial summit for 30 January, and announces new measures to help member states comply with environmental laws.
In a push to find solutions to address the serious problem of air pollution in the EU, the Commissioner for Environment, Vella, has invited ministers from nine member states to convene in Brussels, Belgium.
The member states include:
- The Czech Republic;
- Slovakia; and
- the United Kingdom.
Member states face infringement procedures for exceeding agreed air pollution limits.
What will the meeting achieve?
The meeting will give an opportunity to member states to prove that additional adequate steps will be taken to redress the current situation without delay, and comply with European law.
Vella said: “This meeting on air quality has been called for three reasons:
· to protect citizens;
· to clarify that if there is no improvement of air quality there are legal consequences; and
· to remind member states that this step is at the end of a long, some would say too long, period of offers to help, advice given, and warnings made.
“Our first responsibility as the commission is to the millions of Europeans – young and old, sick and healthy – who suffer from poor air quality. Parents of a child suffering from bronchitis or a daughter of someone with pulmonary disease want to see improvements in air quality as soon as possible. For them, action plans with a 10-12-year timescale or ineffective plans are useless.”
The effects of poor air quality
President Juncker underlined in his state of union address that the aim is to deliver a Europe that protects.
Each year, more than 400,000 Europeans die prematurely as a consequence of poor air quality and many more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases caused by air pollution.
In economic terms, bad air quality costs in excess of €20bn a year to the European economy, due to increased medical costs and reduced worker productivity.
The commission wants to cooperate with member states to help them comply with the emission limits, which they have agreed to respect, and which guarantee citizens’ health. These limit several key pollutants, namely:
- Nitrogen dioxide (NO2); and
- Articulate matter (PM10).
Both were to be met in 2010 and 2005 respectively.
The seriousness and urgency of air pollution and the lack of satisfying progress observed in relation to the nine member states requires effective and timely responses.
The air quality ministerial summit organised on 30 January will ensure that additional effective measures are taken and implemented without delay.
What if no action is taken?
If case adequate measures are not taken, the commission will have no choice but to proceed with legal action, as it has already done against two other member states, by referring these states to the court.