European Commission hazy on future air legislation

[Brussels, 19th January 2011] – The European Environmental Bureau has been left confused and deeply disappointed by the European Commission’s failure to provide clarity on the future of important air legislation, based on the outcome of a meeting yesterday between all 27 European Commissioners [1].

Yesterday’s discussion focused on the future of air policy and the fate of the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive, which was later followed by a statement by Environment Commissioner Potocnik.

“In his statement, Commissioner Potocnik recognises that the NEC Directive has been proven to be effective and that it has delivered significant positive impacts for human health and the environment, which makes the case for an immediate revision of the Directive,” said John Hontelez, EEB Secretary General.

“Instead, the Commissioner points to other policy areas such as energy, transport and agriculture as priorities, leaving it unclear how action in these areas would help improve air quality when new targets are missing.”

A cost-benefit analysis available on the Commission’s own website [2] shows that the benefits of a revised NEC Directive to health, environment and the economy will significantly outweigh the costs involved. These benefits are valued at between €22 and €70 billion per year.

As the Commission admits, the current emission ceilings for 2010 have proven to be an effective tool and their overall implementation at national level can be seen as relatively encouraging. 91 out of the 108 ceilings were expected to be met in 2010, with several of the expected breaches being minor (few percentage points) and three of them involving small nations Malta and Luxembourg, which have a minimal impact on the overall pollution levels in the EU.

The NEC Directive is a central piece of EU air legislation and its revision would set new emissions limits for 2020. This revision was foreseen for 2007 but has been repeatedly delayed by the European Commission, despite many calls from civil society across Europe.

Together with other environmental and health organisations across Europe, EEB has asked the European Commission to revise the NEC Directive through letters and actions such as the Run for Clean Air Everywhere, where citizens from all over Europe ran together to ask their leaders to ensure they can finally live, and run, in clean cities.


Louise Duprez, EEB Air Policy Officer, +32 (0) 2289 1307,

Simon Nazer, EEB Press Officer, +32 (0) 2289 1309,


[1] Statement by Commissioner Potocnik

[2] Cost-benefit analysis published by AEA in 2008 "NEC CBA report #3", available here on the European Commission website

Other resources:

EEB (joint) letter to Barroso & Commissioners on revising NEC Directive ahead of meeting

EEA report NEC Directive status

Previous press releases:

October 2010: NGOs and citizens demand clean air everywhere

July 2010: European Commission delays air pollution legislation, yet again

Click here for more details on the Run for Clean Air! Everywhere

For more info, please contact:


Senior Policy Officer: Air and Noise

Tel: +32 (0) 2 289 13 07