Air package welcomed but no early Christmas present for air pollution victims

Press Release

[Brussels, 18 December 2013] The European Commission has today proposed its long overdue package of laws to improve air quality in Europe [1]. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomes the proposal to deal with the biggest environmental health issue of our times, but regrets the overall lack of ambition of the package.

The proposal for the revision of the National Emissions Ceiling Directive (NECD) typifies this lacklustre approach. While the EEB welcomes in particular the proposals for action on ammonia and methane emissions, all of the proposed new targets will apply only from 2030 and commit Member States to do just a portion of what is possible and necessary to achieve acceptable air quality. Louise Duprez, EEB Senior Policy Officer, reacted to this “This is a first step in the right direction, but it is a paradox that the entire Year has been marked by repeated calls from scientists for urgent action, yet the Commission’s response is ‘yes, but not until 2030’ This delay will result in large numbers of completely avoidable premature deaths in Europe.

Revised laws on air quality are long-awaited and extremely necessary. Air pollution causes more than 400 000 people a year to die prematurely and was this year declared a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths by the World Health Organisation (WHO) [2]. Air pollution also impacts Europe’s ecosystems, with two-thirds of the protected sites in the EU Natura 2000 network currently under severe threat from air pollution [3]. The economic costs of air pollution are enormous, amounting to between €330 and €940 billion in the year 2010 alone. [4]

A study published in the Lancet last week found that there is an elevated risk of early mortality even within limits set by the EU [5]. This is extremely worrying as 90% of people living in cities are exposed to what experts consider dangerous levels of pollutants, notably fine particles (PM2.5) and ozone. Still, the European Commission did not deem it necessary to align the EU’s air quality limits with the latest advice from science, nor did it give a clear timeline for doing so.

In other areas it is not only the ambition level which disappoints but also the scope. While it is welcome that measures are proposed to address emissions from Medium Scale Combustion installations (1-50MW), other sectors such as shipping, cars and non-road machines remain neglected.
Louise Duprez concluded: “It now remains for the European Parliament and Member States to inject into this legislation the drive to achieve lower levels of pollution that are needed to protect Europeans’ health and the environment.


[1] Commission Proposal Press Release:
[4] European Commission, 2013,

Alison Abrahams, EEB Communications Officer, +32 (0) 2289 13 09 or +32 (0) 489304962
Louise Duprez, EEB Senior Policy Officer, +32 (0) 2 289 13 07, +32 (0) 489 34 18 96

For more info, please contact:


Senior Policy Officer: Air and Noise

Tel: +32 (0) 2 289 13 07