Member States show worrying lack of ambition in tackling poor air quality

EEB Reactions

[Brussels, 13 June 2014]

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is deeply concerned about the lack of commitment in fighting air pollution shown by several national ministers at yesterday’s Environment Council in Luxembourg. The Council meeting was an opportunity for EU member states to discuss the Clean Air Package released by the European Commission at the end of 2013, but a number of ministers complained about the targets put forward as too ambitious or not sufficiently cost-effective [1].

Louise Duprez, Senior Air Quality Policy Officer at the EEB, commented: “Air pollution today in Europe comes at an unacceptable cost to human health and the environment. The reaction of certain Member States is not only a kick in the teeth for the millions of people who will continue to suffer from air pollution, it is also illogical that they complain about the costs of taking action because the costs of inaction are far higher.”

According to the European Environment Agency, 90% of Europeans living in urban environments are exposed to levels of air pollution considered dangerous to human health [2]. Every year in Europe, due to air pollution, there are 400,000 premature deaths, around 1.1m km² of land that is exposed to eutrophication which is more than the size of France and Spain combined, and an area half the size of Italy that is subjected to acidification. The economic costs of air pollution are enormous, amounting to between €330 and €940 billion in the year 2010 alone [3].

Louise Duprez added: “How much larger do these figures have to get before ministers start taking them seriously? We are dealing with people’s health and the recent peaks of air pollution we experienced in cities like London, Paris and Brussels only a few months ago are stark reminders of what air quality can get like if we don’t start taking action.”

The EEB is particularly concerned by numerous comments from ministers about the “high ambition level” of the Commission’s proposals when those proposals do not even get close to reaching the EU’s air quality objectives for 2030.

Even if the Commission’s draft laws were passed, there would still be 340,000 premature deaths in the EU in 2020 with the costs of air pollution varying between €243 billion and €775 billion. Around 65% of the EU’s air quality zones would still breach the World Health Organisation’s recommended level for PM2.5 [4]. Also, there would still be over 260,000 premature deaths in 2030, as well as over 700,000 km² of ecosystems that are exposed to deposits of acidifying or eutrophying air pollutants [5].

This means that, even in 2030, the EU would still be far off meeting its air quality objective set in the 7th Environmental Action Programme, in which a stated objective is to reach air quality levels that “do not cause significant impacts on and risks to human health and the environment”. Instead of trying to reduce the ambition level of the National Emissions Ceilings and Medium-size Combustion Plants Directives, Member States should be coming forward with proposals that can help the EU achieve the objectives set in the 7th EAP.


Notes to editors
[1] The Council’s public deliberations can be viewed here:
[2] See European Environmental Agency, Air Quality Report no. 9/2013
[3] See the European Commission’s Impact Assessment:
[4] European Commission’s Impact Assessment, page 24
[5] EMRC 2014. Cost-benefit Analysis of Final Policy Scenarios for the EU Clean Air Package. Version 2, page 20 (health figures) and IIASA’s Final Policy Scenarios of the EU Clean Air Policy Package. TSAP Report 11, pages 14–18 (ecosystems figures). Both reports are available here:

For further information please contact:
Sébastien Pant, EEB Communications Officer for Air Quality and Resource Efficiency,, +32 4 70 13 47 38
Louise Duprez, EEB Senior Policy Officer for Air,, +32 (0) 2289 1307

For more info, please contact:


Senior Policy Officer: Air and Noise

Tel: +32 (0) 2 289 13 07