Improving air quality now: it's Europe's time to act!

As part of the Green Deal, the European Union committed to eliminate air pollution. A consultation in this sense has been open and all relevant actors, including cities and regions, are welcome to provide their views until the 16 of December 2021

The European Commission opened a public consultation with the goal to deliver a legislative proposal to revise the Ambient Air Quality Directives. The main elements of the proposal would cover three policy areas: 1) to align the EU air quality standards more closely with the recommendations standards of the World Health Organization (as updated in 2021); 2) to further improve legal certainty and the enforceability of the legislative framework, including the provisions on public information, penalties and access to effective remedies; and 3) to strengthen air quality monitoring, modelling and air quality plans.

Several European cities have already set ambitious goals by aiming to comply with the World Health Organisation Standards instead of the current European ones. For example, Brussels’ Low Emission Zone was introduced in 2018. On June 25 2021, the Brussels Capital Region announced the phase out of internal combustion vehicles by 2030 (diesel) and 2035 (gasoline), since, despite previous improvements, a majority of Brussels residents continue to live in neighborhoods where air pollution is above the WHO health limits. Karen Vancluysen, POLIS Secretary General, together with Dr. Maria Neira WHO Director, Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, were invited to address the Belgian politicians and press at this key launch.

POLIS' Secretary General, Karen Vancluysen states: “While we are gradually coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, we should not forget that another health crisis has been and still is threatening our cities. Air pollution may be less tangible but not less serious in terms of its impact on citizens’ health and well-being. With this decision, the Brussels capital region joins a group of ambitious and forward looking cities in Europe which no longer accept the adverse and dramatic impact of air pollution as collateral damage.”

POLIS, together with The Flanders Region, co-chair of the POLIS Working Group on Air Quality and Clean Vehicles, participated as an expert organization in the revision of the post-euro 6 standard, issuing a position paper last year to call for a new EURO standard that guarantees a swift transition to zero emission vehicles with the least possible air pollutants being released. A more stringent EURO 7 is also part of the European Union commitments in the Green Deal, and POLIS has kept on exchanging with its members, the EC, and other key organisations on this (e.g. Clean Vehicles and Air Quality Working Group joins BEUC and EPHA for collaborative webinar) The Commission Proposal is now with the European Parliament and POLIS will continue to closely monitor this process.

Updating the EU air quality standards based on the latest scientific evidence for the protection of human health and the environment and strengthening the basis for effective action for better air quality, including via better air quality monitoring, modelling and air quality plans will improve ambient air quality.

Feedback is open from 23 September 2021 to 16 December 2021 (midnight Brussels time).

More information here.

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