23 EU Countries failing to achieve European Air Quality Laws
Air pollution, being the largest cause of premature death in urban Europe, is bringing massive concern to not only European Commission professionals but also for EU citizens. Transport has continuously been the main source of this air pollution, and it is high on the agenda for environmental reforms. In 2013, 68,000 premature deaths were caused by nitrogen dioxide, which was mostly produced by traffic. In the same year, small particulate matter killed 436,000 people. Burning fossil fuels causes this matter; which then enter the bloodstream and lungs.
The European Commission stated on 6th February that the European air quality laws have been broken in over 130 cities in 23 Member States in the EU. This leads the Commission to worry about the slow pace of progress in achieving the limits that have been set by the legislation. After the significant amount of directives and implementations taken, it has been proven that Member States are still not meeting the level of advancement as wished by the Commission. The 2008 Air Quality Directive required member states to cut exposure to particulate matter by an average of 20% by 2020. Another existing directive is The National Emissions Ceiling (NEC), which limits emissions at a national level on six air pollutants. The Council of Ministers and European Parliament are currently scrutinizing a revised version of the directive. Multiple directives drew their inspiration from a 2005 strategy on air pollution; which had five main goals. These goals were, compared to levels of 2000, to cut sulphur dioxide by 82%, nitrogen oxide emissions by 60%, volatile organic compounds by 51%, ammonia by 27%, and primary fine particulates by 59%.
The amount of legal action being taken against Member States is extensive: in the last two years the Commission launched legal action against 12 countries for not meeting air quality standards for N02. These countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal and the UK. Additionally, there were more infringements for PM10 toward even more countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Resulting from the slow progress, the Commission applied an Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) at the beginning of February, aiming to improve EU rules, identify problems before they become dire issues, and work on waste management; which remains to be one of the largest issues for at least six countries.