The European Commission has welcomed the adoption of the
directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe.
The directive mirrors closely the Commission proposal of
September 2005 and demonstrates the European Union's strong
commitment to improving air quality in the EU by setting binding
standards for fine particles PM2.5.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said - "The European
Union has, today, taken a decisive step in tackling a major
cause of environmental and health problems. European citizens
are concerned about air pollution. The new directive on air
quality addresses this concern by providing ambitious but
realistic standards for fine particle PM2.5
pollution in the European Union."
Setting standards for reducing concentrations of fine
The directive agreed merges four directives and one Council
decision into a single directive on air quality. It sets standards
and target dates for reducing concentrations of fine particles
- which, together with coarser particles known as PM10
already subject to legislation - are among the most dangerous
pollutants for human health.
Under the directive, Member States are required to reduce
exposure to PM2.5 in urban areas by
an average of 20% by 2020, based on 2010 levels. It obliges
them to bring exposure levels below 20 micrograms/m³ by 2015
in these areas. Throughout their territory, Member States
will need to respect the PM2.5 limit
value set at 25 micrograms/m³. This value must be achieved
by 2015 or, where possible, already by 2010.
Giving greater flexibility for meeting air quality standards
The new directive introduces new objectives for fine particles
PM2.5, but does not change existing
air quality standards. It does, however, give Member States
greater flexibility in meeting some of these standards in
areas where they have difficulty complying. Meeting PM10
limit values is proving challenging for 25 of the 27 EU Member
States which are exceeding these limits in at least one part
of their territory (see IP/07/1537).
The deadlines for complying with the PM10
standards can be postponed for three years after the
directive's entry into force (mid-2011) - or, by a maximum
period of five years for nitrogen dioxide and benzene (2010-2015),
provided that the relevant EU legislation - such as industrial
pollution prevention and control (IPPC, see MEMO/07/441)
- is fully implemented and that all appropriate abatement
measures are being taken. The directive provides a list of
measures that need to be considered.
The new directive on air quality (see IP/07/1895
is one of the key measures outlined in the 2005 Thematic Strategy
on air pollution adopted by the Commission in September 2005
It establishes ambitious, cost-effective targets for improving
human health and environmental quality up to 2020.
The directive will be published in the EU's Official Journal
in May 2008 alongside a Commission declaration on progress
in developing and adopting further measures that address emissions
from various sources.
There is already EU legislation on the exhaust emissions
of light vehicles - but, in December 2007, the Commission
presented a legislative proposal on improving the effectiveness
of EU industrial emissions legislation and another on limiting
the exhaust emissions of heavy duty vehicle engines.
Internationally, the European Union is following, with interest,
progress made by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
on reducing the maximum sulphur content allowed in marine